Thursday, 31 March 2011

Christine Returns


Lesley Saweard (Christine Barford)

When Jim called on Christine Barford to see if the Village Hall was free on the night that "Gardeners' Question Time" might – don't get excited, it's only might – want to visit Ambridge, I was shocked, as I'd completely forgotten that she existed. It seems months since we heard mention of her; not even in the, as Jim might put it, in absentia ploy.

You know the one, frequently used for Adam, where people are waving goodbye to him as he rides off on his tractor, or saying things like "I was talking to Adam the other day and he said…" but it was as if Christine had vanished from the face of the Earth. Still, she's back now and might even get a few lines to say before they wall her up somewhere.

On Sunday, Joe and Eddie's attempt to bum a roast dinner off the Snells went predictably wrong when it turned out that they too were taking part in the 'frugal lunch' scheme. Robert served them brown rice and puy lentils, saying of the latter "don't tell Lyndie, but I opened a small tin" in the same tone of voice that you might use to confess to being a paedophile.

Needless to say, Joe and Eddie were underwhelmed and their next plan is to cook a clandestine Sunday lunch themselves. The potential for disaster is staggering and we await the inevitable cock-up with interest.

Jamie has reverted to 'the whole world hates me' mode (spot on there, my old son) and has a go at Kenton for hitting on Jolene. He goes further, by telling Fallon about Kenton's fling with Holly and she confronts Kenton, who manages to convince her that his intentions are purely honourable and "I really care about your mum."

Actually, I think that the (not so very) secret of Kenton and Jolene will soon be common knowledge, as a number of people have remarked on the change in her; Alistair says to David "Jolene looks cheerful " and, later in the week, Peggy remarks to Brian that it's nice to see Jolene so happy, to which he replies "she's radiant". He then spots Kenton in the Bull and asks "what are you doing here?" before inviting him to join them. That clunking sound you might hear soon is that of pennies dropping. In the meantime, Jamie sits on the village green, drinking cider with his friend Marty, moaning about how unfair life is. Too right – get used to it.

Over at Lower Loxley, Roy is proving to be a real treasure, handling everything competently and even coming up with creative ideas, such as a mini rock festival. "I feel so energised" he tells Elizabeth, while she presumably slips four or five Red Bulls into his cola. Back at Grey Gables, the staffing rotas are, to quote Robert Snell, "in free fall" but hey – as long as Lizzie's feeling good, that's OK.

So good is she feeling and so helpful has Roy been that she says she will employ an assistant when Roy has to leave. Personally, I reckon it will be hard to get him to go back to Grey Gables. As various members of Lizzie's family have been trying unsuccessfully for months to get her to let go a little, I wouldn't be surprised if they came round and queued up to give her a good slapping.

Bad news at Brookfield, where Johne's disease is confirmed in some of the herd and Alistair casually notes that it is sometimes caused by bad calf husbandry. When he has gone, Ruth reminds David that he was remiss earlier in the year by not fixing the holes in the calf house. He retaliates by saying that he had to be at Lower Loxley and it was Ruth who was in charge at Brookfield. This is akin to pouring petrol on an open fire and a full-scale row is only stopped when Ed turns up to collect some of George's toys, left at Brookfield by Emma.

Later on in the Bull, David confides in Alistair that he is dreading the inquest. "It's not a trial," says Alistair, adding that they will just ask questions to establish the facts. Take my advice David; if the question is asked "whose idea was it to go on the roof at night to take down the banner?" start lying through your teeth, or be prepared to have your sister never talk to you again.

Ed proves to be Mr Tactful when he returns home to find Emma getting worked up about trying to make space for the new baby. She has given up her cleaning job and a new cleaner has been employed at Brookfield. "You should see Ruth and David's kitchen – it's gleaming" Ed tells her, and then wonders why this implied criticism of her cleaning skills sets her off on a long bout of moaning.

The Book Club had its inaugural meeting, with Nathan Booth and Joe Grundy tagging along. Nathan was lusting after Sabrina Thwaite (who wasn't there) and Joe was just lusting after free canap├ęs. On the subject of Sabrina Thwaite, a word to Mr Booth – it was you who substituted wallpaper paste for the confetti that Eddie threw over Sabrina at the panto rehearsal. Take my tip Nathan, women tend to remember little things like that.

I was a bit peeved that Joe had infiltrated the Book Club, as his presence could well become tedious, but then I cheered up, as I realised there would only ever be one more meeting. Consider; the next book is to be chosen by Jim and he has said it will be "challenging". My money is on De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum by Marcus Tullius Cicero in the original Latin and people will be so bored that it will be a case of 'Goodnight, Book Club'. Or, as Cicero might have said: 'Ave, Liber Congressus'.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Happy Endings All Round - Nearly


Edward Kelsey (Joe Grundy)

The writers seem to have been taking their nice pills recently, spreading happiness far and wide. Firstly we have the 'will she, won't she?' story of Lizzie having an ICD fitted. You might think that this is a contraceptive device, but you'd be wrong – apparently it's like a pacemaker and regulates the heartbeat, even administering a shock, if needed. Be honest - wouldn't you be tempted to follow her around and jump out at her, shouting "Boo!"?

Anyway, she decided to go ahead with the operation and all went well and she was back at home on Friday, much to David's relief, as he was feeling responsible. The ICD seems to have made Lizzie's brain work properly as well as her heartbeat, as she tells David that she will be getting a temporary manager in. But no need to go looking, as Caroline (presumably wearing her pimp's outfit) suggests that Roy spends a few weeks working at Lower Loxley. Lizzie accepts gratefully and Roy slips into the bondage outfit.

The twins are going through a hard time and Jill is determined to find out why Freddie is so moody. What? Apart from having his father die suddenly and his mother rushed to hospital in an ambulance, you mean? Jill tries catering therapy and, under the guise of making a lemon drizzle cake for Lizzie's homecoming, she gives him the third degree, threatening to put his hands in the Magimix. Sorry, that bit was a lie – I was dreaming again.

Freddie confesses that he is worried because he told Lizzie he hated her and feels that it is all his fault – you don't reckon that David is his real father, do you? Jill tells him not to worry and it could have happened anytime, plus she has wonderful news, Topper hasn't been carted off to the cat food factory and is in fact in livery at Shula's stables, where Freddie can visit him whenever he likes. Another happy ending.

Brian is ecstatic too, as his plan to smoke out the Borsetshire Land mole succeeds spectacularly, much to Lilian's discomfort. A gloating Brian tells Jennifer lately that the mole – Andy Smith – will be resigning from the BL Board immediately. "I just wish I could see Matt's face" says a gleeful Brian. My advice is don't gloat too soon Brian.

Eddie's 60th birthday day at the races goes swimmingly, starting with a full English breakfast and receiving £100 stake money from the family. The picnic is a triumph and Lilian even brought a bottle of champagne – not only that, but she shared it around, as Clarrie said that the bubbles had gone to her head; presumably to meet their friends. Eddie managed to go through the entire meeting without a winner, giving Clarrie his last £10 to put on the last race. Clarrie doesn't back his choice, but puts the money on another horse, because she likes its eyes, or similar and – would you believe it, it comes in at 20 to 1. Credible? I don't think so.

So the Grundys are happy, but will it last? Joe says that he has wangled an invitation for Sunday lunch for him and Eddie at the Snells and he and Eddie are in high spirits. Of course, this is Joe (more cunning plans than Baldrick) we're talking about and I reckon you could safely put Eddie's £200 winnings on the fact that it's all going to go nads up somehow.

Jolene and Kenton are enjoying each others' company, but here the writers' nice pills are wearing off, as Jamie has spotted that they are an item and, in a row over his maths homework, he suggests that he ask Kenton. This, he adds nastily, will mean going down to the Bull and didn't Kathy know that Kenton and Jolene were together now? The answer to that is 'no' and an upset Kathy arranges to go and see Pat. However, when Kathy tells Pat that she has something important to tell her, Pat becomes obsessed with Henry, picking him up and talking to him. What is it about this child that everyone stops what they are doing to tend to him? It's like a scene out of the Midwich Cuckoos (or the film Village of the Damned, if you don't read) – check to see if Henry's got golden eyes, someone.

When Pat is released from Henry's mental control, she asks Kathy what it was that she wanted? "It will keep for another day", says a disconsolate Kathy and then presumably goes home for a good, long moan and sulk, no doubt buying a cat on the way for something to kick.

Also unhappy are David and Ruth, as Alistair confirms that the sick cow does have Johne's (pronounced 'Yo-nay's) disease. To what extent has it infected the rest of the herd? The only way to find out is to collect dung samples from each cow for Alistair to test them – and I thought that my weekend was bad enough because of having to cut the grass…

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lizzie Gets Worked Up


Rob Lister (Lewis Carmichael)

Well, David finally did it, telling Lizzie that he has to spend more time at Brookfield and Lizzie spent the first half of the week taking on more and more jobs, saying "all the things that Nigel used to do I'll have to do myself" and then completely losing her temper with all and sundry.

First of all she shouted at Lily, who kept interrupting Lizzie's talk with David, demanding that Lizzie tell Freddie off for going to see Topper (Nigel's hunter) which is going to be sold. Liz apologises to Lily. Later on in the week, she loses it with Lewis, who was trying to lighten her load. Lizzie apologises to him.

Further pressure is self-inflicted when she talks to Byron Chambers about not staging any more loss-making medieval banquets at Lower Loxley and he accuses her of dishonouring Nigel's memory. Then Lizzie talks to the wine expert about Lower Loxley's latest vintage and she realises that the extent of her viniculture knowledge is knowing in which draw the corkscrew is kept. The last straw is when Freddie starts crying and yelling when Topper is taken away, saying he hates his mum. "Calm down darling" says Jill to her daughter, doing her Michael Winner commercial impression, but Lizzie gets more and more worked up, her heart racing and she ends up being rushed to hospital.

Back at Brookfield, David has already been feeling guilty at deserting Elizabeth and when he learns that she is in hospital, he fears that he could soon be responsible for making orphans out of Lily and Freddie – first Nigel and now Elizabeth.

But hey, David has his own troubles, as Eddie regales us with a graphic description of the bowel movements of one of the cows. First of all "she was a bit loose round the back end." When David suggests this could be because of the move to outside pasture, Eddie says "it were worse than that – all bubbles; I had to stand well back." "Stop him now before he tells us what it tasted like!" I found myself yelling. Fortunately, they agreed to wait until Alistair had seen the beast. Alistair does some tests and tells David that the sick cow could be an indicator for Johne's disease, but not to worry, until there is definitely something to worry about. This is a disease I've never heard of and, after hearing Eddie talk, I was reluctant to find out more. There is some good news for the Archer family though, as Pip's re-sit results are good enough for her to get into college.

In the murky world of property development, Matt is coaching Lilian to ask all the awkward questions at the next day's meeting of Borchester Market Developments. Lilian comes across at the meeting as the world's expert on roofs and washing systems but Brian isn't happy. "Matt's fingerprints were all over that meeting" he mutters to Annabelle and then reveals that he believes there is a mole inside Borchester Land. It's either Andrew Smith or Barbara Gladstone, he thinks, and reveals that he has given them both a different piece of information, so he'll be able to find out who's been leaking. We also find out that his bonding time with Ruari when Jennifer goes to South Africa will be limited to one week, as caring father Brian decided that Ruari can stay with his family in Ireland for the other fortnight.

Jolene seems very content with the way things are going with Kenton – so much so that she tells Lilian that she doesn't want to sell her shares in the Bull. Skate-mouth Kenton almost gives the game away about their relationship when he absent-mindedly talks to David about pancake night in the Bull and says "we're worried that we won't get many takers." Panther-like, David says "We?" and Kenton has to make up some story about being roped in to help.

The odds on this secret relationship staying secret for long are diminishing rapidly – Fallon catches Jolene and Kenton getting a bit close in the kitchen and, when everyone has gone home, she confronts her mum. Jolene confesses that things are moving along nicely and, although she thought that it might be a bit soon after Sid's death, Fallon said "as long as you're happy mum." Isn't that nice? Are you listening, Kathy?

If it's Shrove Tuesday, then it must be time for another crackpot Ambridge Lent extravaganza hatched up in the fertile mind of the Rev. Alan Franks and this year's idea is to have frugal Sunday lunches throughout Lent and donate food and money to the needy. Clarrie signs up for it, so no doubt Joe and Eddie will come up with another half-cocked idea to get round it which will all end in tears.

Anyway, that's all for this week and,if you'll excuse me, I'll just don this rubber suit and waders and get ready to look up Johne's disease on the Internet…

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Another Week Of Prevarication


Felicity Finch & Tim Bentinck (Ruth Archer & David Archer)

Yes David, I'm talking about you, as you continue to run yourself (and Brookfield) into the ground. On Sunday he forgot to turn on the by-pass tap, meaning all that day's (and the previous day's) milk had to be thrown away. David's bad language has progressed from the "Blast!" of a few weeks ago to "Damn! Damn! Damn!" this time; he'll be ready for the f-word before long at this rate. Ruth pours petrol on the flames by taking the opportunity to nag him about talking to Elizabeth about getting a manager in to run Lower Loxley.

David replies that the time's not right ("she needs me") and a full-blown Domestic ensues, after which David goes off to – you've guessed it – Lower Loxley. Nice move Dave. Meanwhile, Ruth continues moaning to Usha about her hubby, saying that they are at the ends of their tethers, but Usha is more worried that Ruth won't have read the first book before the book club meets in three weeks' time. Dear God, if David hasn't told Lizzie by then, I might just switch off – this is dragging on longer than the panto.

David makes a half-hearted attempt to tell Lizzie on Monday, but she takes the children off to the orangery for a post-entrance exam treat. Jill says to David that the answer is to get a manager in, then says that Lizzie is against the idea (we know!) and, if David wasn't there, she'd try to do it all herself and did he remember she had a weak heart? No pressure there then David.

On Wednesday, Ruth and David are at it again and David agrees to talk to Lizzie on Friday. Screwing up his courage, he approaches Lizzie and totally bottles it when she tells him that both children have passed the entrance examination. I should bloody well think so, with all the extra studying. Lizzie then bursts into tears because Nigel will never know and David decides that perhaps this isn't the moment.

I am worried about Helen – she appears to be turning into a well-rounded, pleasant and above all thoroughly nice person and she is so laid back, she's horizontal. When Kirsty brings her figures from the shop and her ideas for promotions, Helen just waves it all away, telling Kirsty that she trusts her judgement completely. Later on in the week, Tony comes up with a cunning (not) plan to get Hel to come back to Bridge Farm. Being Tony, this ploy was as transparent as a sheet of glass, but Helen just smiled indulgently, teased her Dad gently and went along with it. Pre-Henry, she would have ripped his head off. And laughed while she did it.

Clarrie and Emma were talking about names for the new baby when he or she arrives. Emma liked Scarlett, but Clarrie said she'd be teased about being a 'Scarlet woman'. Blank look from Emma. "You know, like in the Bible" (another blank look). "It's a woman who's no better than she should be". (Blank look – I'd quit while you're behind, Clarrie). Mind you, Clarrie demonstrated her classy, epicurean tastes when she told Susan "You can't beat mini pork pies." Too right! Take that Chateaubriand away waiter and bring me a mini pork pie! With some Duchy Originals for afters!

Phoebe is becoming ever-more anxious about flying home from South Africa alone, but Jennifer comes up with a cunning solution – she'll go to South Africa with Kate and Phoebe for three weeks, or however long it is (25 years gets my vote). This will give Brian the chance to bond closer with Ruari – a prospect that didn't seem to fill him with unalloyed delight, surprisingly enough.

Finally, we come to the big story of the week – yes, the Peregrines are back. No, I refer of course to the getting it together of Jolene and Kenton. The catalyst for this was Lillian, who spent 40 minutes nursing a coffee in Jaxx's. Kenton was worried – after all, no-one had ever seen Lillian spend 40 minutes without alcohol – and Lillian confided to him that Jolene was thinking of selling her shares in the Bull and that turning it into flats was a good idea.

Kenton was gobsmacked and went round to see Jolene. One thing led to another (no, not that) and it transpired that they both had romantic feelings for each other. Kenton invites Jolene to a wine tasting, where she confides that she is now having second thoughts about selling her Bull shares. Well done Kenton, although I suspect his motives are rather more selfish than trying to save the pub.

There is one potential fly in this ointment, or perhaps grit in the Vaseline would be more appropriate, and that is Kathy. Not only did Jolene tempt her husband away from her, but now her ex-lover is panting over the landlady. Still, it will give Kathy something else to whine about. Kenton and Jolene agree to take it slow, although they did kiss on Thursday. "Half the pleasure is in the anticipation" says Kenton, presumably as Jolene shows him a bar of soap and a photo of her shower…

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

People On The Move


Emerald O'Hanrahan (Emma Grundy)
Lots of travelling around last week – Brian eventually got to Paris, having shaken off Jennifer's superglue-like attentions. "Where's your passport?" she asked "In my jacket pocket" he replied, but she still had to check. Not only that, but she rang the hotel to check that he had got there. For God's sake, woman, it's only Paris! What would she be like if he was off to Tokyo? Having said that, he did manage to lose his boarding pass before the flight home, so perhaps she knows what she's doing.

Debbie was in Paris too, as were Matt and Lillian. Brian described M&L to Jennifer as "a formidable pair", but their teamwork was put to the test later in the week when Jolene tells Lillian that she might be willing to sell her share of the Bull and let Matt turn it into flats. As Lillian didn't realise that Matt had approached Jolene, this was news to her and she gave Matt a piece of her mind. "I'm only thinking about Jolene" says Matt, unconvincingly.

David was travelling too, driving General Custard up to his new home in Scotland and getting back late. Pip and Josh were in the lambing shed and a ewe was giving problems, so Ruth had to go and help, postponing the milking. Ruth wasn't a happy bunny and it really wasn't the best time for Pip to ask if she could skip lambing that night and go to a party? Ruth went berserk, but later apologised to Pip. Don't worry, Pip - the scars will hardly show.

When David did eventually return, he vowed that, from now on, his place is at Brookfield, not Lower Loxley. He kept on saying this, so you knew that it wasn't going to happen and, sure enough, when he went to tell Elizabeth, she wasn't listening and said "you're doing a brilliant job." David starts to try again to get the message through, but Lizzie's mind is elsewhere as she interrupts to tell David that she has had a letter from the Coroner about the Inquest. When she does realise that David wanted to talk about something, she asks what it was about. "It's really not that important" he replies, glumly realising that, when Ruth learns that he won't be full time at Brookfield, Dave is a dead man walking.

David has also received a letter from the Coroner, as we learn from Emma, talking to Susan. Emma just happened to see the letter when cleaning at Brookfield and 'accidentally' read it. "Does that mean David is a suspect?" she wonders – I know cuts are having to be made, but surely we haven't got to the stage where people are being arrested via the Royal Mail?

Emma also gets a cob on when she hears Eddie discussing his 60th birthday celebrations and she hasn't had an invite, so she goes to see Clarrie. Clarrie is amazed that Emma didn't realise that she was invited and casually mentions that the planned treat (a day at Felpersham Races) was Nic and William's idea. When last seen, Emma was buying a wax doll and a load of pins…

Clarrie seems full of wanderlust after talking to Lillian, suggesting that they go to Paris, rather than the Races for Eddie's birthday and Lillian fantasises about getting an apartment in Montmartre. Now, I hold no brief for the French especially, but even they don't deserve that. Finally on the subject of Eddie's impending 60th (and when asked by Nic when it was, devoted son Will didn't know) Eddie tells Tony and Mike "I still don't feel a day over 25". Presumably that's IQ, Eddie?

Someone who will be travelling in the near future is Phoebe, who became very distressed to learn that Brian was late home because his flight was delayed. "What if it happens to me when I fly home from South Africa?" asks a worried Phoebe, imploring Kate to fly back with her. Sensitive as always, Kate dismisses her fears, saying "It will be an adventure".

Continuing on the travel theme, Tom and Brenda are in Berlin and Tony and Pat have returned from Salzburg, hardly pausing to unpack before shooting off to see Helen and Henry. Tony offers to look after Henry while Helen gets some zeds in and promptly takes him down the pub, where he meets Eddie and Mike. Personally, I think he took him because he reckoned it was about time Henry bought a round of drinks, the mean sod.

Anyway, Tony was worried that Helen would find Henry gone and took him back in some trepidation. But the new, laid-back Helen hadn't noticed that Henry had gone and, even more amazingly, she didn't even care that he had been to the pub. This is a trend that needs watching – carry on like this and she'll end up smoking dope, or going out without ironing her jeans.