Monday, 30 December 2013

Matt Blows It

Kim Durham (Matt Crawford)

Well, Matt badly let down five million listeners when James, who had just learned that Leonie was pregnant, came looking for advice and guidance and Matt persuaded him to tell Leonie that he wanted her to go ahead with the pregnancy. Matt didn't actually tell James to go ahead in so many words, but he did say that, if he had his time again, he might have done things differently and that James isn't getting any younger. Let's face it, mentally at least that would be impossible. This is no time to get all sentimental – just think, he could have steered James into fleeing the country or similar and we would never have heard from him again, but Matt blew it. Big time.

Another story that brought a lump (of vomit) to the throat was Tom's proposal to Kirsty on Christmas Day. There was one cracker left and Tom asked Kirsty to pull it with him. She does and – blow me down – there's a ring inside! Who'd have thought it? Tom asks Kirsty to marry him and she says 'yes' immediately. I would have thought she'd have wanted to think it over for a decade or two, but there's no accounting for women.

This romance is transferred to the Robin Hood panto, where the leading couple take five curtain calls and Lynda says that they are her best-ever leads. You might have a hard job not appearing next year Tom, although I suppose there is a faint hope that Lynda will be so besotted with Leonie's new baby that she will forget to stage a Festive extravaganza. That's the least the scriptwriters could do for inflicting the James and Leonie story on us.

There is Christmas spirit galore over at Keeper's Cottage, when Darrell emerges from the cider shed to wish the Grundys a Merry Christmas. Before he knows it, Darrell has been invited to lunch and been given a present. He protests that he is in no fit state, but Clarrie runs him a bath, goes over his body with the nit comb and rubs him down with Jeyes Fluid. Later on in the day, Clarrie remarks to Eddie that Darrell seemed a bit quiet over the meal. Darrell seems uncomfortable with accepting hospitality – or perhaps he just couldn't stand the Grundys' company any longer – as during the afternoon, he thanks them and takes his leave.

On Boxing Day, Ed is at work with Rosa and he tells her that her Dad spent the day at Keeper's Cottage. She isn't interested but when Ed tells her that, when Darrell was nicked for shoplifting, it was because he wanted a present to give Rosa, this obviously affected Rosa as, later in the day, Ed sees her scooter outside the gate at Keeper's. However, that's as far as she gets as, just like when he was in hospital following the overdose, she cannot bring herself to go and see him. Honestly, she must have wasted a small fortune in petrol going to see him and chickening out at the last minute.

There is a surprise for George – after the family have seen him in the Nativity play, he is taken to a farm to choose a puppy. It seems that Emma visited the farmer, who had promised first pick of the litter to another family, to try and get him to change his mind. He did so after hearing that George's previous dog Baz had died "in an accident". That was no accident – dead-eye Ed Grundy only hits what he aims at - but it does the trick and the man relents. Presumably he made Emma promise never to come near him again as part of the deal.

Anyway, George picks out a bitch and names her Holly and the family return triumphantly to Ambridge View, where Holly promptly makes a puddle on the floor, leaving Susan distinctly unimpressed. George says it's going to be the best Christmas ever. On Boxing Day, Holly continues to wreak havoc, soiling Susan's brand new Pashmina. "It's ruined!" she wails, prompting George to worry about whether she will want to take Holly back. Susan reassures him that Holly is now part of the family, but you can hear the regret in her voice.

The Helen/Rob story took another twist when he rang her on Christmas Day, saying that he'd like to see her on Friday. Helen has already learned that Jess has returned early to Sussex and she thinks this might be a hopeful sign, telling Kirsty "If I'm right, this could change my whole life."

Friday arrives and the couple meet. Rob's opening remark is that it's all over between him and Jess and "She's out of my life for good." Instead of ripping his clothes off, Helen is cautious, asking "So what happens now?" His reply is that that's up to her, but ever since he first met her, she's been the only one he's wanted – we'll gloss over the few weeks when he dumped Helen and went back to his wife. Rob also says he is going to divorce Jess and Helen is incredulous, saying "Why should I believe you?" The week ends with Rob saying "I know I don't deserve it, but please, give me another chance."

You're on your own here Helen, as I think I could guess what would be the advice from Tom and Kirsty (the only other people who know of Helen's affair). My advice – assuming you still want Rob - would be to tell him to get divorced first and then you'll see how things go from there; that'll teach the cheating swine a lesson.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Dog Isn't Just For Christmas – In Fact It's Not Even For Christmas

Barry Farrimond (Ed Grundy)

Ed and Emma's plans to buy George a puppy for Christmas went nads up when they drove to the farm where the litter had been born, only to be told that they couldn't choose one before New Year, as the farmer had promised another family first pick of the litter and they were abroad till early 2014. Presumably they are farmers as well, as they seem to be the only people who can afford foreign holidays.

One wonders how closely Ed and Emma have consulted Neil and Susan (with whom they are living) about the puppy plan, as later in the week, Susan talks to Helen and says how down Ed is about the whole thing but, if it wasn't for George she (Susan) wouldn't have a puppy in the house anyway. Yes, I foresee tension when the puppy arrives at house-proud Susan's des res. Perhaps all will be resolved if they get the puppy and Will shoots it – we wait to see.

Ed finds Darrell in the cider shack (amazingly, he hasn't drunk their stock for the year) and Eddie shows his caring side by saying to his son that "Darrell is our responsibility now" and lets him stay in the hut. Not only that, but later in the week, Eddie brings Darrell eggs and bacon for breakfast and some old jumpers of Joe's (he quickly tells Darrell that they have been washed). And good for you Eddie – you've gone up in my estimation.

Even better, Eddie cajoles Darren to accompany him in the van when selling turkeys and Darrell – who was reluctant to even leave the hut until Eddie tells him he won't take 'no' for an answer – scales the heights of making up for the satnav's failures and even giving a turkey to a customer and taking money and giving change. However, Eddie pushes it a bit too far when he persuades Darrell to drop in on Rosa and mend a few fences with his daughter. He agrees, but it ends badly when she calls him 'smelly' and 'tramp' and 'thief'. OK Rosa, but apart from that? Well, plenty, really, as she accuses him of being "disgusting" and "you're shaming all of us." Showing a bit of spirit, Darrell hits back, saying: "You're still my daughter, whether you like it or not." Rosa's seasonal reply to this is "You know what Dad, whether you like it or not, I wish you were dead." Sharper than a serpent's tooth, indeed.

What to think about the relationship between Jess and Rob? The 'if you can get here and live within 100 miles of Ambridge' party arranged by Jennifer for Jess and Rob – well, for Jess; Rob would rather stick pins in his eyes but he's been presented with a fait accompli – is arranged for Thursday. Even worse, Jess has decided to get Ambridge Organics to supply the food. Even worse than worse, when Helen and Kirsty turn up with the food on the night, Jess asks them if they'd mind serving it to her guests? The woman is either totally innocent or a sadist on par with Torquemada if she knows what's been going on.

Suffice it to say that the party does not go with a swing and Helen and Kirsty take the earliest opportunity to make an excuse and leave. Rob and Jess bicker when it's finished (no-one had Jess's salmon, even though she had borrowed Jennifer's fish kettle) and it fell on the floor. Rob tells his wife: "Your party, your salmon, your mess" and he goes upstairs with a large whisky, telling her not to follow him. The frosty atmosphere didn't pass unnoticed, even by Susan, who didn't even go to the party, and she prattles on to Helen about how Jess seems to be "a bit of a cold fish" and how nice Rob is.

The same day, Rob turns up at Ambridge Organics and apologises profusely to Helen about the hard time she must have had at the party. Rob says it was the most ghastly night he's ever spent since coming to Ambridge and he blames Jess for being in a foul mood and blaming him for the "whole sorry mess." He also thanks Helen for being so nice (the conversation is very formal) and says "I don't deserve it." The jury's out as to whether Rob is a nice bloke with a manipulative wife or she is a nice person with a cheating dirtbag of a husband – if Helen believes the former, I can foresee a New Year of adultery, deceit, lies and jewellery making.

Our worst fears were realised when Leonie – who has been moping around at Ambridge Hall and being generally like a wet weekend - let slip to Lynda that she's pregnant and that James doesn't know. Let's be honest – if James did know, he probably wouldn't know how it happened. Lynda was all concern, but there was a glimmer of hope for us listeners, when Leonie replied: "To be honest, Lynda, I'm not even sure that I'm going to have this baby." Anybody know how you get one of those e-petitions up and running? Mind you, the site would probably crash within minutes.

Finally, to all our readers: have a good Christmas and it's probably best to keep away from any meeting involving Will and Ed Grundy!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Just What You Don’t Want For Christmas

Jasmine Hyde (Leonie Snell)

If you’re the Snells, it’s Leonie coming back unexpectedly, but that’s what has happened. She turned up, moaning about James’s juvenile behaviour - she was trying to organise a ‘sophisticated’ fancy dress party and James just arsed around with a tea towel on his head. Apparently this is symptomatic of his behaviour and was the last straw, so she hot-footed it to Ambridge and inflicted herself on her Dad and Stepmother, not to mention us.

Lynda is not impressed, as her attention is being taken up by the Robin Hood play and Robert has never been closer to death than when he told Leonie “This is your home as long as you need it.” Leonie doesn’t want James to know where she is and so we have Lynda playing out a ridiculous charade whenever Lilian asks her if she knows. And I fear we are in for even more tragic news; when Leonie and Lynda have a heart to heart, Leonie tells her that she’ll be 39 and “I don’t want to be on my own now that I’m…” “Middle aged?” Lynda completed for her. “Yes, that too” says Leonie and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought ‘she’s pregnant’, with a heavily sinking heart. Please God, let me be wrong!

At least Lynda has found herself a new leading man, with Tom’s acting of the proposal scene reducing her to tears. It made me weep too, but for different reasons. The scene obviously gave Tom ideas and he asked Peggy whether or not he should ask Kirsty to marry him? Peggy obviously has a grudge against Kirsty, as she tells Tom to seize the day and go for it.

Perhaps Tom should look at the Titcheners’ marriage as an example - Jess is really keen to live in Ambridge, but Rob tells her he’d rather live elsewhere. This all happens after Jennifer suggests that Jess and Rob throw a little ‘getting to know you’ party and Jess can leave the guest list to her. Of course, this being Jennifer, it means that everyone in Borsetshire is invited and Rob is unimpressed. This turns to real annoyance when Jess tells him that she has engaged Helen and Ambridge Organics to do the catering. Jess has noticed that there seems to be a bit of an atmosphere between her husband and Helen and puts this down to the latter’s dislike of intensive farming. Her party will, she hopes, help build bridges. Not likely, as Helen is already formulating excuses so that she cannot attend the party.

You will be delighted to know, or maybe you’re past caring, that Darrell was taken to hospital after his overdose and there are fears that he’s damaged his liver; presumably from alcohol, rather than the pain killers. As if he hasn’t suffered enough, Shula goes to see him in hospital and she is joined by Rosa, who eventually decides that she can’t face seeing her Dad in the state he is. She also says that he’s done this deliberately and it’s some sort of revenge. Rather twisted logic there, methinks.

Shula is pleased that Darrell will be seen by a psychiatrist and given the best of medical care. In practice, this means anti-depressants and a ‘pull yourself together’ approach. Darrell reacts by discharging himself, which was just as well, really, as Alistair and Daniel told Shula in no uncertain terms that there was no way that Darrell was coming back to The Stables.

At the end of the week, Jim and Jill are out shopping, with Jim doing a fair Ebenezer Scrooge impression, especially when Jill reads off her present-buying list. But wait! Who’s that singing along drunkenly with the carols? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Jim sees Darrell pocket a purse without paying and confronts him. Darrell denies it and, when accused of being drunk, admits to having had a couple ‘to keep out the cold’. He moves away from Jim and we hear Darrell being confronted by either a security person or a copper. Jim expresses sympathy, but Jill is in her ‘and throw away the key’ mood and tells Jim that Darrell has come within a whisker “of damaging my daughter, your son and our grandson”. Old flinty-heart advises Jim to leave Darrell alone, presumably after knocking him down and giving him a good kicking. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with Darrell, but things aren’t looking good. Whatever it is that’s going to happen, I hope it happens soon, as the whole Darrell story is starting to drag somewhat.

As we approach the Festive Season, the feud between the Grundy brothers deepens. They both turn up on turkey-killing day and the atmosphere between them is of barely-veiled hostility, with Will telling Ed that George hates him (Ed). Clarrie demonstrates a truly amazing capacity for self-delusion when she says “Bless you both for agreeing to help. We’re gonna have a lovely day together.” Towards the end of the day, when the two brothers are within an ace of coming to blows, Clarrie comes in and says how pleased she is that they have put their differences behind them and she invites them for Christmas. Those rose-tinted spectacles really suit you, Clarrie.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Feathers Will Fly

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

We had Clarrie going on, and on, and on about how this will be yet another Christmas trying to avoid a confrontation between her sons. Ed agreed to help slaughter and pluck the turkeys as long as Will wasn't there, which was OK, as Will had said that there's no way he was going to do it.

Enter Caroline, performing her godmothering duties by trying to make Will see that he's behaving like an unreasonable, whining lump of misery (Will's default mode, if we're honest) and it's hurting both George and Clarrie. Will has a change of heart (prompted perhaps by the thought of being written out of Caroline's will) and rings Joe to tell him that he'll be there to help. So, it looks like Clarrie was wrong and there will be no avoiding a confrontation, as if both Grundy boys turn up on the day, a confrontation will be a nailed-on certainty. Just keep sharp objects out of their reach.

I said that we had Clarrie going on and on and it seems that the women of Ambridge just do not know when to keep their mouths shut. Take Shula – Daniel decides to go and stay with a friend in Leeds and, as he is off to the station, she gives him a lecture about how he should feel some sympathy with Darrell and it all escalates into a full-blown row. If she'd just waved Daniel goodbye and kept quiet, it would have been so much easier.

Later on in the week, Shula's own sympathy for Darrell is tested and found wanting, although to be honest, his behaviour would try the patience of a saint. First of all she drives him to sign on and practically has to drag him out of bed. Then she and Alistair have a row, because she is washing Darrell's bedclothes and on Thursday, Shula finally snaps. Having made Darrell get up in the afternoon, she has cooked a chicken casserole and gets testy when Darrell doesn't eat much. Testiness turns to anger when he drops the dishes on the floor (sorry Alistair, no dinner for you) and she realises he has been drinking ("Just a quick swig to make me feel better"). Wrong answer, Darrell! Shula finally loses it and tells him that Daniel has gone because he can't stand Darrell and to "get a grip and do something about it – I'm not prepared to look after you for much longer." So much for sympathy.

And Darrell does indeed get a grip – sadly the grip is on a pint glass in The Bull, where Neil finds a drunken Darrell wallowing in self pity. Things get worse when Darrell's daughter Rosa turns up with Jamie and Darrell drunkenly implores her to talk to him, knocking over a table in the process. Just to make Darrell's day complete, she tells him that he disgusts her and "As far as I'm concerned, you're not my dad any more." Probably no point expecting a Christmas card this year then Darrell. Jamie calls Darrell a waster and Neil tells him sharply to watch his mouth and "When you grow up you'll know better." Sorry Neil – and call me unsympathetic if you must – but I suggest that, if Darrell isn't actually a waster, then he'd be a bloody good substitute if you needed one in a hurry.

Neil takes Darrell back to The Stables and, on Friday, we hear Shula and Alistair talking. Shula thinks it's time she woke Darrell up, while Alistair goes to the bathroom for a shower. Shula finds that Darrell is gone, while Alistair finds that their stock of paracetamol has also vanished. Could there be a connection? Too right and a manhunt begins. To cut a long story short, an unconscious Darrell is found in front of No. 3, The Green; the house he used to share with Elona. The week ends with Shula beating herself up and saying how it's down to her because she shouted at him and "If Darrell dies it will be all my fault." Actually, all this could have been avoided – if they had kept the paracetamol in a child-proof container, Darrell would probably have been unable to open it.

It's decision time at Grey Gables for the Deputy Manager's job. Who should get it – Kathy (capable, safe pair of hands) or Anton (good experience, reminds Oliver of Roy but worries Caroline because he never seems to stay anywhere very long)? Kathy gets the nod and she hands in her notice at work after only two weeks – even Anton stayed at places longer than a fortnight.

Elsewhere, there is a crisis at the rehearsals for the Christmas extravaganza as there is still a definite lack of spark between Rob and Kirsty. Lynda tries some half-baked amateur psychology, which is frankly embarrassing and, when Lynda is dragged away by Alistair, who is looking for Darrell, Kirsty and Rob have words. She tells him he makes her skin crawl and she'd walk off the stage now, but she feels loyalty to Lynda. Rob says they cannot go on like this and, when Lynda comes back, he tells her that he is having to pull out of the production. Lynda is appalled and begs Kirsty to talk him out of it. Hmm, unlikely.

This leaves the whole production in jeopardy, but Kirsty has an idea and rings Tom to try and talk him into it. He's not keen (one of the few occasions that I find myself agreeing with him) and points out that he's rather busy at this time of year. Lynda begs him ("You'd be my absolute saviour") and Kirsty tries again, but Tom interrupts her, saying "there are blue flashing lights outside" and puts the phone down – I don't know, he's always got an excuse.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Bearing The Olive(r) Branch

Michael Cochrane (Oliver Sterling)

I'm beginning to think that Oliver and Caroline are too nice to run a viable business in this current climate of austerity and competition. They are out picking holly and mistletoe on Grange Farm and Oliver remarks that the Grundys are usually plundering the trees and bushes at this time of year. "We have some bridge-building to do" Caroline says. Why, pray? How often do the Grundys patronise Grey Gables? On the night that Joe tripped, they were only there because it was cheap and they would normally be shown the tradesmen's entrance.

Never mind, Oliver is determined and sets out to see Joe. Prudently, Oliver has taken along a bottle of home-made sloe gin and he butters Joe up further by asking if he could order a small (10 – 12lb) turkey. Joe's principles are easily bought and he invites Oliver in for a cuppa, laced with whisky. Oliver mentions the abundance of holly and mistletoe and asks when the Grundys are going to harvest it? Eddie enters and is bemused to learn that Oliver is now his father's best friend and even more so when Joe says they should get up there now and pick it and would Eddie mind getting Bartleby ready?

Soon the three are loading Bartleby down with foliage and toasting each other with whisky. Joe tells Oliver that he doesn't bear a grudge and the worst thing you can do is fall out with neighbours. Excuse me? Joe doesn't bear a grudge? Let's think – a well-refreshed 92 year old trips over at Grey Gables and breaks his wrist, later getting £3,000 compensation from Caroline and Oliver; Oliver allows Joe and Eddie to oversee the cider production from his apples every year; Oliver comes round with sloe gin and persuades Joe to come and pick his holly and mistletoe (which they will sell); Oliver buys a Grundy turkey. And Joe doesn't bear a grudge? Give him the shirt off your back, Oliver and he might even send you a Christmas card.

Over at the Stables, Alistair attempts to take advantage of Shula's absence at Reg's funeral by bundling Darrell into the car and driving him to a hostel. Sadly, Darrell goes into meltdown and is rescued by Alistair after wandering around in the road, clearly distressed and disorientated. "Come on, let's get you home" Alistair says. It wasn't a good week for Darrell – he started his new job and got the sack on the second day because he screwed up but doesn’t know why. You put the pointy end of the nails on the wood and hit the flat bit on the top with the hammer, Darrell – and that's the sum total of my DIY knowledge, but worth knowing. Alistair, Shula and Daniel look at each other and Alistair goes out to change the sign to "The Stables and Home for Waifs and Strays."

The story of Jill's eyes reached a climax when her eye test revealed that she doesn't need new glasses, but she has got cataracts. Jill is devastated to think that bits of her are wearing out – it's called 'getting old' love and it's why you can't run after buses any longer or take the stairs two at a time. Even worse; it gets worse. On the other hand, Shula (who drove her mum to the appointment) makes light of her condition, saying that it's just a routine operation and you'll be out of there in a few minutes. Ha! Easy to say when it's not your eye that a man is approaching with a sharp scalpel.

You will be delighted to know that the recipe book ('Appetising Ambridge') has been printed (without photographs) and all Lynda and Emma have to do is bind it (plastic spiral) and flog it. The miserable (or as I think of it, the 'Will Grundy') part of me hoped that they had bound it back to front, but I reckon there will be more than enough grief when the contributors find that Lynda has 'improved' lots of their recipes.

Lynda might have troubles of her own, as Rob cries off a rehearsal as he's ill. Rob had an awkward moment the previous day as he and Jess ran into Helen and Henry and Henry obviously wanted to be picked up. Rob visited Helen at Ambridge Organics and he implied it was her fault for not restraining Henry. She's distraught, but confesses to Kirsty later that she still loves him. Fortunately we are spared more details of how good the sex was. Tom ends up reading at rehearsal with Kirsty and I fear that he is doomed and we'll see him in Lincoln green yet.

The atmosphere between the Grundy siblings takes a dive when Ed (out shooting rabbits with dad Eddie – nice to have a hobby) sees a dog running loose and shoots it dead. Unfortunately, it turns out to be Baz, the dog that Will is training – and presumably not very well if it runs off after a hare – and Will is adamant that Ed did it on purpose. They grapple and are separated by Eddie. Will rants "You killed my dog – I shan't forget this, ever!" What? Will bearing a grudge – surely not? It's a pity that Eddie buried Baz, as Ed could have had him stuffed and mounted and given him to Will as a Christmas present and a reminder of the brief, but happy, time they had together…

Monday, 25 November 2013

Celebrations All Round

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

Lots of people were celebrating various things last week – Brian's 70th birthday bash was very posh, with presents such as a superb bottle of brandy (thank you Annabelle). Brian was obsessed with people not knowing his real age (70) even though Jennifer said that the 'XO' on the bottle stood for 'extra old'. Oh, how we laughed! Brian's efforts came to nothing when Phoebe came in with a cake, baked by herself, with a gigantic figure '70' on it and enough candles to illuminate a small town. Still, Brian should care, as Jennifer's present was a beach holiday in Mauritius.

Actually, I did wonder if the episode at Brian's party was sponsored by the Hungarian Tourist Board as, when David told Brian that he was taking Rooooth away to Budapest for their Silver Wedding, Brian became ecstatic about the delights of that fair city. Incidentally, David is also going to commission a special piece of silver jewellery when in Hungary – not bad when we are being told that farmers are having a hard time.

As well as Brian and David celebrating, Clarrie and Eddie went out for a meal, courtesy of Joe, who gave them £50 of his compo money. Eddie told Clarrie that the holly and mistletoe at Grange Farm is exceptional this year, but she puts the kibosh on that by telling Eddie that he cannot collect from Grange Farm "as I don' t want to be beholden to Oliver and Caroline." So, you'll be giving Oliver the cider back and not collecting apples this year then Eddie? Eddie demonstrated a hitherto-unknown depth of insight and self-knowledge when he proposed a toast to 'the best wife in the world', adding "I don' t know how you've put up with me for so long." I was wondering the same thing myself.

The story about Jill's eyesight took another turn when she drove to Brookfield and knocked Josh off his bike because she didn't see him. At last she agreed to have her eyes tested and has given up driving until then, which means more running about for her children.
Shula and Alistair are still at odds over Darrell and things get worse when Daniel stays over at Jamie's one night because he feels uncomfortable with Darrell being in the house. Alistair lays it on the line, telling Shula it's time to decide who's more important, Darrell or Daniel? Not much of a choice, really, is it? I think Shula will be upsetting more people, as she's trying to raise sponsorship for a three-hour peal of bells. Three hours? Remind me to be out of Ambridge when that happens.

Going back to Darrell, it seems that things are looking up when Eddie tells him about a friend who is doing some work in Felpersham and they need a joiner and would Darrell be interested? Would he! When talking to Shula about it later, he says that he could have kissed Eddie at the time – it would have to be a bloody good wage to tempt me to do that. However, all may not be as it seems, as Eddie tells Darrell that he'll be working for cash in hand. This concerns Shula and she mentions it to Darrell. "We can work round that” he says, optimistically and you just know that it's all going to end in tears.

Something else that ended in tears was the 'pal's night out' with Tom and Kirsty and Patrick and Helen. Helen got stuck into the wine big time and opened her heart to Kirsty about Rob. Helen tells us that the whole experience with Rob was amazing and that the sex was fantastic (too much information) and she misses him so very much. Helen then goes to the ladies for a really good cry. Fortunately for Patrick he is spared all this as he and Tom are losing money on the quiz machine. All in all I think all four have had better nights out.

The panto – I beg its pardon, the 'play with music' – is starting to get on my nerves, as usual. Lynda notices the lack of rapport between Robin Hood and Maid Marian (it was the knife in his back that gave her the clue) and she organises a ludicrous improv evening where Rob and Kirsty have to pretend to be newly-weds. Things don't get better when Kirsty makes pointed remarks about wedding vows and the atmosphere gets so bad that even Lynda realises that her scheme isn't working. Personally, I hope either Rob or Kirsty walks away from the production, leaving it dead in the water. Sadly, I don't think that's going to happen.

A sure sign of the approach of Christmas is growing tension and animosity between the Grundy siblings. We almost had a punch-up when Ed discovered Will herding up his birds, using a dog off the lead. Ed is paranoid about neospora and tears Will off a strip. Will responds by telling his brother that it's not his (Will's) fault if Ed can't run a business properly and it's only a matter of time before it collapses. Alistair, who has turned up to look at a sick cow, tells Ed that it is highly unlikely that the virus was spread by a dog, but Ed isn't listening, which when you think about it is the default mode of both boys. Ah well, Merry Christmas!

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Not-So-Good Samaritan

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

There's no doubt that Jill has got a hard edge to her character – we have said before that she could be unfeeling as far as Kenton is concerned (although his marriage to Jolene appears to have made him more acceptable) and now she's having a go at Shula over Darrell.

At Daniel's birthday tea, Darrell wells up when talking about Elona and goes to his room. "Poor Darrell" says Shula, to which Jill replies sharply "Pull yourself together – you've got to get him out of here." When Shula asks where would he go, Jill suggests the Grundy’s or Neil and Susan. To my mind, the first comes under the heading of 'cruel and unusual punishment' and the second is impractical, with Ed, Emma and the children living there. Why the big rush? True Daniel has come home, but it was only a few weeks ago that Shula was saying "we've got all this space" when making the case for taking Darrell in, so how many rooms does Daniel need? In fact, although everyone seems to want Darrell out because of the effect on Daniel, he's sanguine about the whole affair and doesn't seem at all worried.

However, things are looking black for Jill – almost literally – as we had another reminder about her eyesight problems. When viewing the DVD that Jim has prepared for David and Rooooth's Silver Wedding, Jill remarks to Josh that her memory must be playing tricks, as she seems to remember that it was sunny that day and has Jim toned down the colours as the sky doesn't look very blue? Josh replies that it is sunny on the DVD and it looks fine to him.

The panto is still trundling along, with Robert Snell the latest to be dragged into the cast, as Friar Tuck. He originally said 'no' but we all knew he was doomed, as should he, having spent all these years with Lynda.

Kirsty is still uncomfortable about having to act alongside Rob but she tells Tom that she's just going to ignore Rob and enjoy the play. However, the best laid plans and all that; Lynda gives Kirsty the lyrics of a song to learn and she is horrified when she realises it is a love duet between her and Rob and she'll have to gaze lovingly into his eyes while singing it. Wouldn't it be a good story if they fell in love? That would make for an interesting atmosphere between her and Helen at Ambridge Organics.

It appears that Kirsty is really getting her feet under Tom's table; not only has she bought new crockery (including a milk jug – it will be fish knives next, mark my words) but is banging on about getting a real Christmas tree and buying new decorations. We also learn that she and Tom have chosen a new bed – if I were her, I'd have made sure it was of the bunk variety.

Elsewhere, Eddie is trying to drum up Christmas turkey business and he tells Joe that Christmas is going to be difficult this year, despite there being bumper crops of holly and mistletoe. Joe is happy, however, as he has received his compensation cheque. Eddie moans because the solicitors have taken £600 of the £3,000 as their fee (in real life they would probably have taken the £2,400) and his mood is not improved when Joe tells him that it's going straight into his savings account. Bad luck Eddie!

Ian takes Helen out for a meal and a heart-to-heart, telling her that Adam had told him about her and Rob (thanks Adam!). They are at cross purposes, as Ian says that one day all this will seem a bad memory, someone else will come along, etc. Helen, however, says that she doesn't want anybody else and if Rob came to her tomorrow and wanted to get back together she'd say 'yes'. She also wonders whether she should tell Jess the sort of man she's married to – "Isn't that what he deserves?" Now, I may be wrong here, but I can't help feeling that if my erstwhile mistress told my wife what had been going on (presumably leading to said wife either leaving me or throwing me out) then I would not be very kindly disposed towards the mistress and the chances of getting back together would be minute at best

Going back to Josh, he is fresh from his triumph over his Dad in choosing the steer for entry in the Primestock show – they chose different animals and we had an episode where they were filming the beasts so that Pip could decide which was the best. This was not the most exciting piece of radio, but at least not as yawn-inducing as the bit where William and George were trying to train Baz, the gun dog – that's five minutes of my life I'll never have again.

Pip sided with Josh and David agreed, so it's Josh's choice Castor (one of a twin, along with Pollux, and no, that isn't rhyming slang) that will go into the Primestock show. You have to wonder about Josh's intelligence, as David asks if he can use Josh's laptop as he's looking for the perfect weekend break for him and Rooooth but he wants it to be a surprise, so if he uses the laptop, she won't be able to trace what he's doing on the farm computer. "Are you going away then?" Josh asks. Tell you what - not much gets past this boy, does it?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

What A Thing To Do To Your Husband!

Rina Mahoney (Jess Titchener)

Jess must really hate husband Rob, as she volunteered him for the panto as Robin Hood. How could any human being willingly do that to another person, let alone a spouse? The potential for disaster is pretty huge, as Kirsty is playing Maid Marian and Rob isn't her favourite person, due to the way he treated Helen.

Helen continues to take her split with Rob extremely badly – at the fireworks do she spots Rob and Jess together and starts moping and mooning around. Kirsty asks her "Are you OK?" and gets the answer "No, not really". Helen then asks Kirsty if she will look after Henry while Helen goes home. Come on Helen – it's time to move on. Let's face it, if she's going to hide away every time she sees Rob or hears his name mentioned, then she might as well become a squirrel and hibernate.

And people will start noticing – at The Bull Kirsty and Helen find themselves talking to Rob and Jess. Afterwards, Jess mentions to Rob that Kirsty seems to have a problem with Rob playing Robin Hood and then she wonders out loud if Helen is always that quiet. Back at The Bull, Helen starts crying and Adam asks what's wrong? He and Helen go off to feed the ducks and the whole story comes out. "Now you despise me" she says, but Adam assures her he's in no position to throw stones but he doesn't go into detail about his sordid night of passion with Pawel last year.

Over at Grey Gables, things are looking up when Caroline learns that the authorities are not going to prosecute over Joe Grundy's accident. Even better, their increased offer of compensation to Joe (£3,000) was eventually accepted, although Eddie and Ed were keen on holding out for more. When he heard the news of the £3k offer, Eddie said excitedly "Think what we can do with that!" and Joe reminds him that it's his compensation money and Eddie can keep his hands off it, thank you very much.

Caroline and Oliver decide that they need a Deputy Manager at Grey Gables and decide to advertise. Surely Lynda is a shoo-in for the job? But wait! Robert has doubts and he reminds his wife that they aren't getting any younger and "our time is precious." He also suggests that she is giving too much of herself to work and village activities; "look at the Christmas Show" he says. "I could let someone else do it", Lynda replies. "Could you?" he asks. "No" she says. I've got a better idea – take the job and scrap the Christmas Show altogether.

As it turns out, Lynda goes for a walk to reflect on the situation and returns home to find Kathy talking to Robert. Kathy came round to see whether Lynda is going to apply; if she is, then she (Kathy) won't. Lynda tells us that she has decided not to apply for a variety of reasons; Robert, the girls, Oscar and her work in the village. I suppose that means the Christmas panto goes ahead. Damn! Kathy rings Caroline, who tells her that her application will be considered along with the others.

At the Stables, Darrell's plight gets worse and worse. Everybody is telling Shula that she is insane for giving him a home and he seems determined to prove them right. He begs Shula to lend him some money so he can go and see daughter Anna and she gives him £10 before going off to The Bull to join the party welcoming Kenton and Jolene home. At the end of the party, Shula and Kenton return to the Stables, to find a drunken Darrell sprawled out and the videos, earmarked for Jim to transfer to DVD for David and Rooooth's wedding anniversary, ruined. Kenton orders him to go and tells Shula that she should tell Alistair.

Shula is reluctant to do so, but the next day the story comes out when she, Alistair and Darrell talk. Alistair accuses Darrell of destroying precious mementoes of his and Shula's son. "Things will be different from now on" Darrell says. "Yes they will" Alistair replies, ominously. Later on he talks to Shula and says she is at breaking point. It looks bad for Darrell when the week ends with Alistair saying to Shula "He's got to go – will you tell him or shall I?"

Finally, the story about Jill's erratic driving takes another twist (ho, ho) when Mel reveals that she doesn't feel safe with her driving. This is at Kenton and Jolene's party and Jill wonders where Elizabeth is. Rooooth points her out (Jill didn't see her) and asks if she's having trouble with her eyes? Jill promptly dismisses the idea, although she admits to having had 'one or two letters' from the optician. Nevertheless, she says she's fine and turns away to continue the one-sided conversation she has been having with a hatstand.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Advice From An Unlikely Source

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

You know that you have hit rock bottom when Eddie Grundy starts giving you lifestyle advice and that's what happened to Darrell last week. Eddie stopped Darrell thieving the Poppy Appeal collection tin and has a heart to heart with him, telling him that he once lost everything; home, farm, animals, the lot. Eddie tells Darrell that he has to learn to live on his Jobseekers benefit, upon which Darrell admits that he isn't getting benefits any longer as he didn't turn up for his interview at the Job Centre. Feeling sorry for him, Eddie gives Darrell £10, telling him to "try and get yourself sorted."

Darrell obviously thought he said 'snorted' instead of 'sorted' and spends the money on drink. Not only that but he goes back to the Stables, as happy as a newt, singing and waving his arms about, spooking a horse called Otis, which runs off. Shula and Alistair are deeply unimpressed and Alistair describes Darrell as "a complete liability" and says "we can't trust him round the horses."

A day or two later, Shula confronts Darrell, who has bought her a Chocolate Orange to apologise (he borrowed £3 off Vicky). Shula lays it on the line, telling him that the Stables is her work environment and "safety is paramount". "Like a building site" says Darrell, eagerly. No Darrell, there aren't any horses on a building site. Darrell confesses to Shula about his loss of benefits and the fact that he never went to see the doctor or went to the Job Centre, even though Shula drove him into town specially. She leaves him to see to her guests (Oliver and Caroline) and the episode ends with Darrell sobbing.

Elsewhere, we were introduced to Jess, Rob's wife. Kenton was a touch embarrassed when he offered her one of his special Hallowe'en cocktails, reflecting afterwards that a drink called 'corpse reviver' isn't the best thing to suggest for a woman who has just lost her father. It's unusual for Kenton to exhibit such sensitivity – perhaps his imminent marriage has changed him for the better.

The marriage took place on Friday at Lower Loxley and Kenton's ex-wife Mel and daughter Meriel turned up from New Zealand at the beginning of the week. The day before the wedding, Kathy was talking to Pat in The Bull and the subject was Mel. Kathy said: "Jolene has had two men off me – it's only fitting that Mel will be there when Jolene walks up the aisle." Oooh! A saucer of milk over here for Kathy, please!

The wedding goes smoothly enough – Fallon's Best Woman speech goes down well, as does Jamie's efforts as Best Man. Jamie's speech contains all the embarrassing stories and insults that we were expecting. For example: "Kenton is only interested in one thing – but he's so old, he can't remember what it is." Jolene thinks that Meriel is developing a crush on Jamie and urges him to dance with her. Is it really wise to encourage a relationship between two people who live on opposite sides of the world, I ask myself?

Bad news for Ed Grundy and Mike, when Alistair comes back with the results of the tests on the cows – three of Vicky's heifers will have to be culled because of the neospora infection. Ed is incensed and, because one of the ways that it can be transmitted is through dog faeces, he becomes paranoid about canines. So much so that he seeks out Oliver for reassurance that the hunt pack will not come on his land. Oliver gives him his word.

Life goes on in the village, with Emma still looking for recipes. Rooooth says she'll get her Mum's recipe for Singin' Hinnies (I didn't know what they were either), but Joe's suggestions of past favourites such as 'Pig Trotter Pie' and 'Tripe and Onions' are deemed unsuitable. Speaking of Joe, he continues to be morose, but Nic manages to cheer him up by showing him young Poppy. Jim happens to mention what a good job Nic has done in cheering up Joe – unfortunately he says it to Emma, whose nose is once again put out of joint.

Kirsty continues to demonstrate disturbing signs of mental instability – first of all she is actually pleased to have been offered the role of Maid Marian in the panto. The way things are going with the casting, she'll probably also end up playing Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham. However, the final proof of Kirsty's madness is revealed when Tom rings Pat to say "Hi mum, have I got some great news for you!" Great news? Is he emigrating? Going into a monastery? Quite the reverse, as he says that Kirsty is moving in with him. Kirsty, think on I beg you, it's not too late; there are drugs available, or counselling – we can help you to avoid a bleak, soulless, empty future dominated by endless conversations about sausages and Ready Meals.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Take A Bow, Or Rather Don't

Joanna Brookes (Anthea Jennings)

There is a sniff of rebellion in the air in Ambridge, as no fewer than three people told Lynda to get stuffed when she tried to rope them in for the Robin Hood panto. First of all Tom said he was too busy, then Maurice declined the chance to play the title role and Anthea declined the offer of playing Maid Marian. Actually, this latter was a bit of a worry, as we learned that Anthea has form when it comes to Am Dram, as she used to appear with the Felpersham Light Operatic Society and only gave it up when her husband got jealous. Let's keep our fingers crossed that she doesn't start hankering after treading the boards again. My natural pessimism makes me think that Lynda will get her own way in the end – she usually does. Having said that, apparently the auditions on Sunday were an embarrassment with hardly anyone there, so we live in hope.

It was not a good week for Mike and Vicky – Alistair confirmed that the poorly cows were suffering from the infectious parasite (sounds like Joe Grundy, doesn't it?) neospora. Not only is it infectious, but untreatable too and, should it spread from Vicky's cows to Ed's herd, then we are looking at a cull of all the infected beasts. The possibility of losing his livelihood does little for Ed's mood, as Emma tells Lynda and he is sharp with her at home and sarcastic with Neil and Susan. Mind you, this should cheer Emma up as it gives her a new thing to be miserable about.

Speaking of being miserable, Joe continues to find fault with everything and seems on the verge of giving up. Asked whether he has been doing the exercises prescribed by the physio, he says no, adding: "I ain't never gonna get no better." Certainly his grammar isn't – I've never heard so many double negatives in seven words.

Despite Joe's assurance that he's not going to the cider micro brewery, Jim manages to persuade him to go and they are driven there by Jill. And not driven very well, either – I feel we are being set up for a 'should she be driving at her age?' storyline; either that or a tragic road accident.

Over at Bridge Farm, Pat demonstrated that she can be a nosy cow, as she is worried that Helen doesn't appear to be her usual, happy self and wants to know why. Helen tells her to leave her alone and that there's nothing wrong, but obviously there is part of "sod off and leave me alone" that Pat is incapable of understanding, as she engineers spending time with her daughter, making cheese, in the hope that she will open up to her. "When I try talking to her, the shutters just come down" Pat tells Tony. Then leave her alone woman and mind your own business!

Mind you, it probably won't be long before everybody knows about Helen and Rob, as Tom manages to put two and two together and realises that, every time he mentions Rob's name, Helen goes all sad and moody. And let's face it – if Tom can work it out, then it can't really be that difficult, can it? Tom comforts his sister with such phrases as "what were you thinking of?" and "he's a married man." She knows that Tom, you Muppet. Helen says "Don't hug me; you'll make me cry" personally, I would have replaced the word 'cry' with 'vomit', but he does hug her and yes, indeed she does cry. How long before Tom accidentally blows the gaff to Tony and Pat, I wonder?

At the stables, Darrell seems to be easing into a life of idleness; when Alistair hurries him up so that he can take him for an interview at the Job Centre, Darrell doesn't get dressed and tells Alistair that he'll re-arrange the appointment. Later on in the week, Shula tells David that Darrell is going in the right direction and that he has already changed the Job Centre appointment. That's as maybe, but he hasn't actually gone along for it yet, has he? Still, at least he didn't spend any more nights sleeping rough in the park.

The impending marriage between Kenton and Jolene moves ever closer and we learn that ex-wife Mel and daughter Meriel will be in Ambridge on Monday. Meanwhile, on Friday, we had Kenton's stag do. This consisted of an afternoon of extreme quad bike driving, with Kenton, Jamie and Jazzer daring each other to even hairier stunts. I was prepared for an accident – perhaps Jill coming round a corner and mowing them down – but they all made it to the pub (not The Bull), along with Jim and David. David has brought along Kenton's old school reports and there is much mocking of the bridegroom-to-be as they get stuck into the beers. One memorable phrase from the form tutor was: "Kenton's potential remains a mystery, due to his total lack of concentration". "It's going to be quite a wedding," says Jamie and Kenton adds "Yes it is – I think it's going to be the happiest day of my life". I wouldn't mention that to Mel, if I were you Kenton.

Monday, 21 October 2013

In Party Mood

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

It was Susan Carter's 50th birthday party this week and we can only assume that there weren't many females there, as Neil, when talking to Darrell later in the week, said that Susan "was the belle of the ball". Mind you, Darrell reminded Neil that he (Neil) had known Susan for more than half his life – let's face it, you don't get that for murder, do you?

A good time was had by all, especially Tracy, who said "I'm young, free, single, and I want to mingle". Let's analyse that shall we? 'Young' – compared with Joe Grundy, yes. 'Free' – presumably she doesn't charge. 'Single' – is Tracy divorced? 'I want to mingle' – I've never heard it called that before. Neil spent most of the evening trying to give Susan her special present of a locket and he eventually cornered her. "It's like you" he said, handing it to her. What? Dense yet shallow, did he mean? No. "Solid gold" he breathed, thereby inducing nausea in millions of listeners.

One good thing about the party – Joe didn't attend, which must have made it go with a swing. He was his usual miserable self for most of the week, only brightening up when Jim took him down to the orchard and he witters on about how he planted this tree or that fifty years ago. On the subject of Joe, Jolene is the latest inhabitant of the village to have seemingly forgotten what a miserable old sourpuss Joe is when she says "I hope the old Joe is back sooner rather than later." Why? It can't be for the money, as the mean old sod invariably gets someone else to buy him a drink.

There was a despair-inducing moment for the audience, when Lynda casually revealed that she would be holding auditions for Robin Hood later in the week. It's at times like this when I feel Scrooge was a much-misunderstood person and I really wish Lynda would go away for Christmas; in fact, I wish she'd go away for Autumn, or for ever, come to that.

Bad news for Ed Grundy, as he has had two cows abort their calves within days. Apparently they are among those owned by Vicky and the cause is a mystery, although one suspects that it could be a reaction to Vicky talking to them. We await the results of the tests on the samples taken by Alistair. Elsewhere in the Grundy family, Eddie persuades Joe to reject Grey Gables' offer of £1,500 compensation for his accident. The way Eddie's luck runs, it's a fair bet that Joe will expire suddenly and no-one will get any money.

Someone who did expire was Rob Titchener's father-in-law, causing him to rush down to Hampshire. He returned midweek and contacted Helen, suggesting they meet up. Helen is just about to rip his clothes off when he tells her that the experience has brought him and his wife Jess closer together and he and Helen will have to call it a day. "I owe it to Jess and to our marriage to make it work" he says. Ha! He didn't think like that when he and Helen were indulging in marathon bonk-fests, did he? Helen is distraught and her mood is not improved when Rob comes into Ambridge Organics a couple of days later to check that she is all right. "Leave me alone Rob" she snaps. How quickly these women change!

From love's young nightmare to love's young dream – yes, Kirsty still hasn't come to her senses and is still with Tom. They are in bed on Friday morning and Tom says he can't believe it, waking up with her. I find it pretty incredible myself. Kirsty replies "I'm a lucky girl", which led me to think that Tom had just jumped out of the first floor window, but no – it's just her being love-struck. Later on, when Kirsty goes to work in the shop, Helen breaks down and tells her about Rob leaving her. To her credit, Kirsty doesn't say "I told you so" but blames herself for being so wrapped up with Tom.

At the stables, Darrell gets a phone call from Anna, his youngest daughter and, for some inexplicable reason, this makes him go awol for a couple of nights, sleeping in the park. When he returns, he goes to collect his tools from his friend and assures anyone who listens that this time he's really going to sort himself out. How true this is, we don't know, but things didn't get off to a good start when Shula suggested that they look for jobs online and he demurred, saying he'd only just come back and hadn't got his head together.

Over at Brookfield, we can safely assume that, if David has a favourite song, it isn't 'Who let the dogs out?' as he sees a dog worrying his ewes. He and Rooooth get there as soon as possible, but there is no sign of dogs or owners and he has to rescue some ewes from the river. Back home, Rooooth finds consolation in eating cakes made by Jill – trials to see if they are good enough for Emma's cookbook. That means that the cookbook will now contain two cake recipes and David's ragu sauce – a slim volume thus far.

David comes off the phone to the Police and tells Jill and Rooooth that letting dogs molest livestock is a criminal offence and the Police are taking it very seriously indeed. So the squad car is on its way? Well no – they're not taking it that seriously. "Did you tell them that we have notices all over the farm?" asks Rooooth, obviously forgetting that dogs can't read. Jill remembers that, earlier in the day, a couple came into the village shop with two dogs and she had to ask them to take the dogs outside. All she can remember is that they were a bit rude - presumably the owners rather than the dogs.