Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Worthy And Boring

Rosalind Adams (Clarrie Grundy)

The Grundys were centre stage for most of the past week, with Clarrie finally agreeing to Eddie's and Jazzer's plans to take Nathan Booth to the cleaners over his attempts to fix race night. She overcame her conscience after hearing ex-Marine Des Penwell talk at St. Stephen's.

Unfortunately, her judgement wasn't so sound when Nic revealed that Clarrie had invited all the family round on Christmas Day. "It'll be nice to have all the family together" she and Eddie cooed. No it bloody won't – it will be carnage! Ed and Will spending a day together, swigging Eddie's apple brandy – I suspect goodwill would be in very short supply.

Is anyone else annoyed by the number of worthy storylines that seem to be creeping in? We still have the "get the wrinklies working on computers" propaganda, with Harry patiently talking Peggy through how to open an attachment. Perhaps it's me, but a detailed description along the lines of "…and now you click on the icon like this…" does not exactly make for riveting radio.

Des Penwell's talk at St. Stephen's may have swayed Clarrie, but it sounded a bit like an advert for the British Legion. Still, we mustn't be churlish at this time of year.

From the worthy to the boring. Yes, I'm talking about Tom's TEA, or 'tedious energy audit'. Fortunately, Tony agreed to his suggestions concerning the lighting and the refrigeration unit, so hopefully we will have no more debates about whether sodium lamps, and how many, are what are needed. Please God.

Equally boring was the step-by-step walk through of what Nigel and Lizzie have planned for Lower Loxley in the run-up to Christmas. Nigel told Lizzie "We have two Santas booked," thus ruining Christmas for any young children who may have been listening.

However, for sheer, toe-curling, mind-numbing tediousness, we have Pip and the halter training of the Hereford steer that is going to be shown. Once again, I humbly submit that phrases like "he's got a good top line" or "doesn't he hold his head beautifully?" are not scintillating radio. What was worse, however, was the discussion between Pip and Josh about Pip's future and that of the farm. Pip wonders whether to go to agricultural college so that she can keep abreast of what is happening in farming. In a line that I found chilling, Josh asked her "Are you going to stay here for the rest of your life?" Pip's answer was drowned out by five million listeners screaming "No! No!" at their radios.

The silent but slightly creepy Nathan Booth got his just desserts when Eddie and Jazzer stitched him up on race night, conning him into paying £150 for a horse that came last. In his triumphant celebrations, Eddie seemed to forget that he and Nathan are going to be spending a lot of time together during the panto season. Nice one Eddie.

Helen continues to be a source of worry (as well as annoyance) to everyone, prompting Peggy to say "I wish you weren't going through all this on your own." Ha! She wishes? Not as fervently as most of the listeners, I'll wager, although the words "on your own" are superfluous.

And now I'd like to make a presentation. The trouble is I don't know whether it should be entitled "The unluckiest sod in Ambridge" or the "Engage brain before opening mouth" award. Either way, the winner is Patrick, the bird man of Ambridge, for telling Lynda Snell that he passed his Grade 7 piano exam when younger. "When he said that, his fate was sealed" she said, smugly. I have a vision of the poor beggar chained to a radiator in the Village Hall, existing on bread and water and being forced to learn the score for the panto.

The frightening thing (for him) is that Lynda will probably call on him every year now and he has a job for life, unless he cuts a hand off, or moves far away. No doubt he wishes that he had kept his trap shut but it's too late now and, in an apt phrase for panto season, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Moving Closer

Joanna van Kampen (Fallon Rogers)

A number of relationships seem to be developing in Ambridge. It seems as though Jolene has finally got her rear into gear, by convincing Fallon that she (Fallon) should do the panto, thus rekindling Lynda's will to live. Earlier, Lynda was having a crisis of self-doubt, pouring out her fears about the panto to Harry and asking the question that was on so many of our lips: "Is there any point?" Harry could have said "no, you're right; it's a complete waste of time, now let's go down the pub" but instead he was reassuring, nice and kind, the twerp.

However, Harry did demonstrate that he was human when he lost it totally with Jazzer, who had just ruined £100-worth of saucepan and chef's knife. But did Harry force him to pay it back? No. Thinking of others as usual, he blackmailed Jazzer into taking part in the panto. Now that Fallon is on board, I anticipate some love interest between her and Harry. God knows Harry deserves some good times after putting up with Jazzer, although the pig-minding Scottish milkman won't be happy.

In persuading Fallon to take part, Jolene says she wants to face the challenge of running the pub at its busiest time. Could this newly-found enthusiasm have anything to do with the time spent with Kenton? They certainly seem to be getting on well together and, should things develop, that will give Jamie something else to sigh about. Jolene should watch out though, as the fact that Kenton bought some novelty-shaped cocktail shakers (I don't want to speculate) and a wind-up penguin for Jaxx's illustrates his level of sophistication. Classy or what?

Moving closer in an electronic sense are Peggy and old flame Con, who have exchanged e-mails. Peggy is delighted and full of it, but Jill is lukewarm, to say the least, making pointed references to poor Jack in the old people's home.

The tension between Will and Ed was nicely built up during the week, with Clarrie asking Nic "Is Will still prickly about the baby?"  The word 'cactus' springs to mind. Clarrie also demonstrated a rare insight into what passes for Will's mind; when Nic said that there's no reason for Will to be bothered about the baby, Clarrie replied: "No logical reason." As it turned out, the Young Farmers' Ball passed off uneventfully, with the two brothers spending the evening in a state of armed neutrality, buying each other drinks with gritted teeth.

The prize for the most tedious storyline has to go to Tom's energy audit for Bridge Farm and the five hundred reasons why they need a new refrigeration unit. Peggy is deeply impressed when Tom tells her all about it, saying: "It's so refreshing to hear someone who has a plan for that farm." Take that, Tony! Refreshing it might be, but it's certainly bloody boring – I think I prefer the panto and I never thought I'd write that.

Two nominations for creep of the week: firstly there's Tony, who has taken whining to a new level, moaning (still) to Tom about the flak he took when he bought the mower/conditioner. Let's pause here to discuss what a mower/conditioner may be, shall we? I reckon it's the machinery equivalent of 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner – "Take two machines into the field? Not me!"

But back to Tony, who was getting grief from Pat about not changing out of his working clothes as well as earache from Tom about the energy audit. "Are you lot ever going to let me have a moment's peace?" Tony wailed. It's true - you don't know how stressful it can be, having to put on a clean pair of jeans.

Creep number two is Nathan Booth, with his plan to fix the betting on race night and defraud the British Legion. I must apologise to Joe Grundy, who I suggested would organise the scam – I don't think it was morals that prevented him, it was probably just that he didn't think of it – and Nathan is in for the financial equivalent of a good kicking. The poor sod doesn't even get a speaking part.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Let's Hear It For Helen's Baby!

John Rowe (Jim Lloyd)

I bet you never expected to see a headline like that in this blog! Don't worry, I've not gone soft, it's just that two or three times last week the baby was giving Helen a good kicking, thus making it the envy of legions of listeners. Why is it so active? I reckon it's getting its retaliation in first, knowing what sort of life it can look forward to.

Or maybe it’s a reaction to being starved, or shaken about with all the exercising. On the subject of food, Helen said "I know exactly how many calories a pregnant woman of my height and weight should be having". I bet she does – to three decimal places, no doubt. Mind you, Helen had to cut back on the exercises as she twisted her knee, which was a great pity – it could have been her neck. Whatever the baby's motives, let's hope it keeps it up.

Helen has become the fount of all knowledge on all things gravid, even lecturing Emma on how to get through pregnancy. Presumably Helen thinks that the stork brought George along? If this keeps up, I can see Emma ringing up Annette for the number of the termination clinic. Helen also keeps banging on about wanting "a natural birth" – let her wander off alone to a secluded bit of the farm when the time comes, I say; after all, that's what animals do.

Jim has been cast as the Emperor in the panto and is researching the part by reading about some ancient Japanese ruler. I don't know what the Japanese is for 'Behind you!" (according to my computer it's あなたの後ろ) but I don't see Jim as much of a threat to the Chuckle Brothers, somehow.

Then we have the story of Jim's horse racing video night (or, as he would probably call it 'Equus circus nox noctis') which is currently underwhelming everybody. Don't you just have the sneaking suspicion that Joe Grundy will try and pull a fast one (like looking at the videos in advance) only to cock it up on the night?

Elsewhere on the panto front, we have Mike giving in to playing a part, David saying of Lynda Snell "why is it I can never say 'no' to that woman?" (because you're a great woos David, that's why) and Harry being cast as the erstwhile female lead. Let's just hope that Lynda doesn't insist on the fishnet tights.

Things are going from bad to worse for Harry on the domestic front, with Jazzer stocking up on junk food. Don't be a spoilsport Harry – you might even come to like deep-fried Mars Bars. A sign of how desperate Harry must be feeling was when he turned up half an hour early for the panto rehearsal.

Other highlights: Brian tells Will how important it is that the forthcoming shoot goes smoothly - a sure sign of impending disaster if ever I've heard one. The Grundy boys continue to move closer together; unfortunately it's only so that they can hit each other more easily and the impending Young Farmer's ball looks set to be the backdrop for further conflict.

Meanwhile we can all let out a cheer – never mind about the Formula 1 championship; Bert Fry's second place in the last ploughing event of the season saw him take third place overall. The nation can breathe again.

Kenton opens his heart to Jolene about his fears that Jamie doesn't want to have anything to do with him and she told him to persevere, citing the hard time that Sid had winning Fallon round. "She told me that Sid had been more of a father to her than her own Dad had" Jolene told Kenton. Ha! Big deal! This is Wayne we are talking about (who, incidentally has been mercifully absent in recent months, although it probably won't last). Let's be honest here, there are things living under rocks in streams that are better fathers than Wayne.

The week closed on a strange note, with Kenton apologising to Jolene for unloading his troubles on her when he had intended to cheer her up. She replied "You stay around Kenton Archer – you'll have plenty of chances to pay me back". Enigmatic or what?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Where's Ollie?

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

Has anyone else noticed that Oliver Sterling and Caroline seem to have vanished without trace? It must be weeks since we heard Oliver banging on about Sterling Gold or Caroline enjoying a good hack in the open air. Are they on holiday? Banged up at Grey Gables by frustrated guests? I think we should be told…

Meanwhile, for those who are still with us: I'm sorry, but I cannot believe in the Harry/Jazzer storyline any longer – nobody is that reasonable or forgiving. I mean, even Jesus lost it with the moneylenders in the Temple, so how come Harry hasn't told Jazzer to sling his hook?

Let's face it, Jazzer has only been there a week or so and he has already littered the bathroom with his dirty, pig-stained overalls, drunk everything in the flat that might contain a trace of alcohol, incinerated the Sunday joint (buggering up the oven along the way), left old food hanging around, not washed up so much as a fork, comes home in the wee small hours and puts the TV on and finally, after the 'House Meeting' called by Harry (you suspect that there was an agenda and that Harry took minutes), Jazzer was caught smoking, admittedly hanging out of the window at the time. All it needed was one small push, Harry.

Mind you, there are signs that even Harry's tether is finite, as he moans about Jazzer to Fallon and – a sign of true desperation, surely – he auditions for the pantomime in order to give himself something to do in the evenings. Personally, I'd prefer juggling chainsaws, or good old self-harming, but it takes all sorts. Not surprisingly, Harry proved a more-than-useful actor and was given one of the starring roles. I wouldn't be surprised if Fallon joined the cast and there was the beginning of a touching romance. An alternative scenario is that Harry is gay and fancies Jazzer – why else would he put up with all this grief?

On the subject of the auditions (he said, through gritted teeth) we had the unedifying spectacle of Eddie Grundy whining and begging for a part other than Rat Henchman 2. Why does anybody want to put themselves (or us, for that matter) through this ordeal? When Eddie suggested that it should be fun, Lynda went ballistic and slipped into tortured director mode, ranting and (probably) foaming at the mouth. I bet she's got a canvas chair with her name on the back.

Elsewhere, it was bad news for the Peregrines, when the roosting step on the church tower was vetoed. Vicky turned from enthusiastic supporter to "say no to the falcons" in the blink of an eye and then made the faux pas of congratulating Will on his impending uncledom, to coin a phrase. Will someone please take this woman to one side and explain who hates whom, who has had relationships in the past and generally fill her in on peoples' backgrounds before she wedges any more feet in that, admittedly capacious, gob?

Jennifer proved she was human when she had a go at Kate for not helping ("But you're always so organised" replied Kate. I'll say!) and Kathy and Jamie moved even further apart. "I give up over the whole thing" said a despairing Kathy to Pat, prompting loud cheers from listeners and, presumably, even louder ones from Jamie.

Drama when Bert's oil filter (or rather, the Massey's) failed and David had to rush a new one to him so that he could compete in the ploughing match. Would he be in time? Yes! Would Bert win? No – he came sixth and we are left in suspense about whether or not he can still win the championship. My fingernails can't take much more.

Ruth is worried about Pip's future; on the romance front, no-one had asked Pip to the Ball. "You're bound to have somebody ask you" Ruth told her, surreptitiously riffling through the Yellow Pages to look up "Idiots – Village". But Ruth was right, as a boy called Lucan (and I'm not sure about the spelling, although if I were him, I'd ask to be called 'Luke', I think) has asked her. Amazingly he appears to have all his limbs and senses, although for David the most important thing is that he isn't Jude.

Academically, Pip has to decide between university and agricultural college (I hear that Tashkent Uni runs a very good course, Pip) and she hasn't even started her 'personal statement'. I can help here – pass me the form. "Annoying, gullible, whiny, boring – " But hey, why don't you run on ahead; this could take some time…