Monday, 24 January 2011

Brian Admires David's Bullocks


Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

The admiration came when Brian arrived at Brookfield to do the strawing down, which is one of the few moments that David wasn't working. You can't help feeling sorry for David – if he's not working at Brookfield, he's finding that organising a wedding isn't as easy as it sounds. To top it off, Bert went home with a bad back; you just can't get the staff nowadays and these 70- or 80-year olds have no stamina.

Mind you, it's David's own fault, as people keep offering assistance (Kenton, Lewis, Pip) and all are rudely rebuffed, with David saying "I can cope" through increasingly tighter-gritted teeth. Oh yeah? Got the banner down yet David?

When Lewis offered to help, David said "you've got the Gallery to look after." Gosh yes, that's a full-time job, opening the doors in the morning and locking them again at night – he must be exhausted.

It doesn't help that Nigel's filing system is described as 'idiosyncratic' by Lewis – no doubt he filed everything under 'L' for 'letter'. Lizzie is itching to get back to work – she is probably upset by the sobbing and hysterical cries as David finds another sheaf of letters neatly filed in the bread bin. Jill suggests that she gets a temporary manager in, but Lizzie won't hear of it.

Just to add to David's workload, he took over as Chair of the local NFU branch on Thursday. He didn't fall asleep during his acceptance speech and a subsequent conversation about global warming and farming (although I did), but he did nod off in the car going home. Lucky he wasn't driving.

Apart from David working himself to death, what else has been happening around Ambridge? Kathy was having a moan to Pat about Jamie, who doesn't fancy further education and just wants to sit around all day playing computer games. Well take the bloody thing away from him, woman! Pat, with the air of someone slowly coming to her senses, tells Kathy that, with Helen bringing Henry home next week, everybody will be frantically busy and would Kathy mind restricting her meal visits to one evening a week? You could almost hear Tony saying "Yippee!" in the background.

So who will Kathy pour her heart out to now? Who wants to be the one to listen to her constant whingeing? May I humbly suggest Vicky? That should wipe the smirk off her face, although I doubt she'd be listening anyway.

Jim also has education on his mind, wanting to talk to Daniel about his A-level options. Daniel is keeping out of the way, presumably not wanting to offend Jim by telling him that he doesn't really want to do Latin, Greek and Etruscan.

Going back to Vicky, her surprise party for Brenda went surprisingly well and Brenda was quite gracious in the end, although Tom was having kittens that Vicky would bang on about babies (she didn't). At the party, Harry revealed a masochistic bent when he suggested to Jazzer that they host a Burns' Night supper at the flat. Far be it for me to impugn Jazzer's patriotism but I'm willing to bet that the nearest he has got to an authentic Burns' Night supper recently is a bag of haggis-flavoured crisps and a can of Scottish lager.

But back to Vicky, who tells Helen that she needs to be careful, or else she (Vicky) will run away with young Henry. I didn't think it possible that I could feel even more sympathetic towards Henry, but my heart went out to him when I heard that. Imagine having to choose between Helen and Vicky as a mother – I think I'd pick the Nigel/roof option as soon as I could walk, or crawl even.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Everyone Rallies Round


Souad Faress (Usha Franks)

Lower Loxley must be bursting at the seams, there are so many people helping out and visiting Elizabeth. One of the latter was Usha, in whom Lizzie confided that she was having trouble in choosing material for the funeral service. Usha suggested that Lizzie made it a celebration of Nigel's life and what about having his favourite poems as readings? That conjured up the surreal image of the congregation of St Stephen's lustily singing "Twinkle, twinkle, little star".

Lizzie demonstrated the Archer control freak gene by wondering if David and Lewis were running the business properly. Surely, if Nigel could cope, how hard can it be?

There was also the "will they, won't they?" saga of whether Freddie and Lily would attend the funeral. Jill was adamant that they should go, she having been denied the chance to say 'goodbye' to her own mother at the age of seven, and, under a combined Archer/Franks campaign of nagging and emotional blackmail, Lizzie gave in.

The funeral went off well, with Kenton (a last-minute draftee speaker) getting them rolling in the aisles, or rather, aisle. He certainly showed why 'funeral' is an anagram of 'real fun'. Afterwards Lizzie thanked him, saying "You brought Nigel to life", which is a neat trick at a funeral. She also took Freddie and Lily up on the Treetop Walk, presumably to get them in training for the traditional Pargetter rooftop excursions when they are older.

David is spending most of his time at Lower Loxley and he assumes the Chair of the NFU branch next week. Better get that bulk order for Pro-Plus in now, Dave! But don't despair, as people are rallying round at Brookfield too, with Brian even cancelling going to a conference. Ruth tells David that Brian is looking forward to doing some "hands on farming" again. I'd be careful Ruth – the last time Brian was 'hands on', Siobhan got pregnant.

Instead of David helping at Lower Loxley and Brian helping at Brookfield, wouldn't it have been better for Brian to help Elizabeth instead of people wandering all over Borsetshire, standing in for each other?

Away from the funeral, we had a bit of light relief with Joe dressed in a sheet, pretending to be a Druid and impregnating Sabrina Thwaite with mistletoe. I'm sorry, that last bit should read "impregnate Sabrina Thwaite's apple tree with mistletoe". Good old Joe – this mistletoe impregnation is cock-eyed if you ask me.

Elsewhere, super sleuth Susan Carter tells Vicky of her theory that Henry's father is really Ian. Not only is his middle name Ian, but apparently "he's got Ian's chin". Zut alors, inspector! That proves it!
Speaking of young Henry, Helen says wistfully "I haven't even been able to bathe him yet". What? You mean he's two weeks' old and can't even bathe himself yet? Shape up lad!

Vicky is reverting to annoying mode and planning a surprise 30th birthday party for Brenda. Tom is taking her to Berlin for a few days and keeps dropping hints that Brenda wouldn't want a party, especially when Vicky asks what sort of games Brenda likes. If Brenda finds out about the party, I reckon Hangman would be favourite; that or Murder in the Dark.

A promising story line is Matt's plan to take the Bull off Jolene's hands (at a rock bottom price of course), knock it down and build flats. Lillian is aghast when he tells her, saying "but everyone would hate me". This of course isn't a problem for Matt and he is probably already having the nameplate prepared: "Judas Court" or "Pariah Towers" both have a nice ring to them. Good job he didn't tell her of his plan to torch St Stephen's, buy up the burned-out site and erect condominiums. Never mind, perhaps in the meantime he can find some widows or orphans to evict – best to keep him away from Lower Loxley for a while.

Returning to Lily and Freddie, they took Nigel's death very well and, brave little soldiers that they are, they both said that they want to take the Cathedral School entrance exams. "It's for Daddy" said Freddie. OK, he's only a youngster, so I can forgive the use of 'daddy' for now. But be warned – if he doesn't quickly grow out of it, or if I once hear him utter the word 'bravo', then it's a quick trip up to the roof for him, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Guilt Trips


Graham Seed (Nigel Pargetter)


So now we know – the 60th anniversary blockbuster episode has come and gone and caused much debate and controversy.

It all began with Amy not liking the look of Helen (join the club) and advising her to get to hospital fast. Tony took her literally and rushed through the streets of Felpersham like Lewis Hamilton on speed. Was there going to be an accident as the promised apocalyptic event? If so, we could have got rid of Helen and Tony, thereby radically reducing the misery quotient of the village at one fell swoop. True, we would also have lost Tom, Pat and Amy, but you can't make omelettes…

But it was not to be, as Helen was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, had an emergency delivery and was presented with a bouncing baby boy, who she named Henry Ian. Tony immediately became besotted with his new grandson, having spent all the time that Helen was in surgery deep in guilt ("I've been against this every step of the way") and berating himself for being a miserable git and not supporting his daughter at all. Don't be so hard on yourself Tony – that's what I'm here for.

His about turn was the biggest conversion since St. Paul's and he is fast becoming a baby bore, describing Henry as "the most beautiful baby in the world". But hang on, as later on in the week, there was a suggestion that young Henry looks like Tony, so which is it?

Anyway, exciting as Henry's entry into the world was, it wasn't the apocalyptic event we were promised, although Helen did describe herself later as 'a control freak and a know-it all'. Surely not? So back we go to Lower Loxley, where the party had gone a bit flat and David and Nigel were at a loose end. The conversation went something like this:

Nigel: Let's have some champagne
David: If we got the banner down off the roof tonight, that would save me coming over tomorrow.
N: What, you mean going up on the roof in the dark?
D: And the wind and frost, which will make it slippery.
N: It's a bit rusty too, but what a Whizzo idea! Bravo! Let's do it. I'll present Lizzie with a fait accompli.

They climb up on to the roof and Nigel reveals that he has been clambering over the roof of Lower Loxley for years, encouraged by his father. This was probably the same father who urged him to play with the electric fire in the bath or introduced him to the sport of catching the javelin.

To all our astonishment, Nigel slipped off the roof and the episode ended with a blood-curdling scream while we wondered "is he dead, or will he be lucky and land on his head?" It was the next night when we realised that fait accompli was Latin for 'flattened corpse' and it was goodnight Nigel, who'd gone to meet Mummy and Daddy. We never did find out if the bloody banner came down, or if it's still up there, flapping.

If I might digress here, I'd like to return to the scream. The Radio 4 statistics programme 'More or Less' measured the duration and it was 3.5 seconds (although drastically reduced for the Sunday omnibus). Ignoring air resistance, they calculated that this meant that Lower Loxley must be 60m high, which is around the height of York Minster, and indicates that LL is at least 20 stories, which stretches credulity past breaking point. I reckon the actor playing Nigel thought "if I'm going, I'll make it a good 'un".

Anyway, that was the shock we were all promised and many people were upset. Come on; yes it's true that Nigel was a nice bloke, although he had his faults (the 657-page appendix will be available later) and, let's be honest, he was drippier than an ice cream in a heatwave. If you think that's cruel, what about the comment of a friend of mine, who said "why couldn't he have landed on Helen?"? No doubt you could supply your own favourite target(s).

With Nigel gone, it was time to pick up the pieces as everybody rallied round to make sure that Lizzie never had a moment alone to check where the insurance policies were kept. It's not all bad news, though, as presumably Freddie and Lily will be released from the past exam papers prison and will see daylight once again.

It was now time for the guilt trips to kick in, the heaviest of which was David's. And rightly so – it was, after all, his suggestion that he and Nigel should do some nocturnal mountaineering. Word of advice, David – don't tell Lizzie it was your idea. The next Archer to feel guilty was Kenton, as it was his idea to put the banner up there in the first place (incidentally, it was one of his 'sailor's knots' which Nigel found so difficult to undo). Well done the two Archer lads!

Then we had Ruth, who was feeling guilty because she was grateful that it wasn't David who took the quick way down, and the entire Bridge Farm spur of the Archer family, who feel bad because they are feeling so happy about Henry Ian.

Finally, we have the people who are telling Lizzie (or anybody else) that they know what she's going through, as they've been there. So we have Shula (Mark), Jolene (Sid) and Alan (his late wife, Catherine). Alan is trying to get some idea from Lizzie what she wants for the funeral and he says "Love doesn't die."

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a title of a Lloyd-Webber musical. What other songs could we have? Here are a few suggestions: Slip Slidin' Away (Paul Simon); Falling (Roy Orbison); Let's Hang On (Four Seasons); Catch Us If You Can (Dave Clark Five); I Should Have Known Better (Jim Diamond) and, of course, the blockbusting, rousing finale: Up On The Roof (Drifters).

Monday, 3 January 2011

Unhappy New Year


Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

Helen continues to behave like a complete cow, ignoring Tony's efforts to build bridges. Mind you, he's spending every waking moment feeling sorry for himself. They deserve each other, really. Of course, they do meet up at Adam and Ian's party (fair division of labour here; Ian made the canap├ęs, cooked the food and prepared the punch, while Adam had a shower) but Helen is so shagged out after taking Kirsty on a 100-mile route march earlier that she leaves prematurely. Tony is convinced that this is just to snub him and his paranoia is coming on a treat.

At Lower Loxley, Kenton (who else?) has the great idea of putting the 'Happy New Year' banner on the roof and Nigel (who else?) agrees. Lizzie is not best pleased and tells them to come down before the children see them. Not, you will notice, "come down because it's dangerous and I'm afraid for you" but we mustn't let the children get ideas. How will the children see them, when they're kept in a windowless room, shackled to their desks and going over old exam papers? Nigel finds an old Art Deco brooch in the attic ("It was Mummy's" he says – how old is he supposed to be, for God's sake) and resolves to get it cleaned and give it to Lizzie on New Year's Day.

Pat mentions in passing that "the Grundy's had a nice Christmas", which makes me think that Will probably stayed at home. Nic was her usual helpful self, bless her.

After what seems like decades, the first night of the panto arrived and 14-month old Oscar was in the front row. Apparently he was on a promise to stroke Sabrina Thwaite (Dick's cat) after the performance, thus making him a hate figure for all the young men of the village. But there's a crisis! Tristram Hawkshaw, the new director of the Felpersham Light Operatic Society), is seen in the audience, taking notes. Lynda goes berserk at this and has an attack of the vapours when she learns that he is reviewing the panto for the Echo.

That doesn't stop her interrogating Harry about any possible love interest between him and Fallon "And there's nothing more you want to tell me?" she asked him in a faux-coy voice, doubtless with eyelashes fluttering. Instead of telling her to push off, Harry tells her that there's nothing like that between them. What is it about Harry and Fallon that makes people so bloody nosey? Even Oscar's mother Flat Leaf Parsley asks Joe if they're an item and, after the panto is all over, Brenda tells Fallon what a lovely couple she and Harry made.
Once again we have the simpering "is there anything you'd like to tell me?" Yes, mind your own business, you nosey cow, should be Fallon's response, but instead she tells Brenda that she really fancies Harry and the first kiss was sensational. "But after that, they were just like panto kisses" she complains. What does she expect? Does she want Harry to throw her to the stage and ravish her in front of the audience? Fallon moans that, when she invited Harry over to read through their lines, that was exactly what happened. Perhaps she should have given him a hint, like dragging him upstairs? "I'm going to forget all about it" says Fallon, adding optimistically "you must keep this to yourself". Ha! Fat chance!

Lynda is worried about the panto and tells Harry when she learns of Tristram's presence; "There's so much resting on you and Fallon". So no pressure there, then Harry! However, you know Harry won't let you down and he and Fallon were marvellous. Lynda's good at the moral blackmail, persuading Nigel to go to Felpersham (from where he had just come) and pick up a replacement wig, his having been ruined by the wardrobe mistress. Nige isn't keen, but Lynda says "the entire artistic endeavour of this year's panto depends on you."

As it turned out, Tristram's review was wonderful and they are beating people off with sticks. Lizzie comes to see Nigel's performance and she is ecstatic, shouting out "bravo Nigel!" at the end. I thought only Nigel used 'bravo' but it must be a landed gentry thing. Perhaps 'bravo' was Freddie and Lily's first word?

As New Year's Eve drew to a close, Nigel gave Lizzie the brooch and all was lovey-dovey again. Meanwhile, Tony was happy too in his way (ie unhappy) by trying to fix the yard tractor in the dark and refusing to go to the Bull to see Helen. With such an abundance of festive spirit perhaps next year he can get a job as Santa Claus?