Monday, 25 February 2013

A Week Is A Long Time In Ambridge

Will Sanderson-Thwaite (Christopher Carter)

What a week it was for young Chris Carter – it started well with Jim's article appearing in Borsetshire Life. According to Susan, Jim wasn't happy with it (like you, I was gobsmacked at the news) but never mind, as Susan was proud enough for both of them. If truth be told, she was proud enough for the entire supporters of a Cup Final winning team, but that's what mothers are like.

Jennifer got off lightly – she popped into the shop to get some nice chocolates to take to Matt and Lilian's (personally, I would have bought lots of liqueur chocolates and taken out the gin-filled ones for her) and ended up with two copies of Borsetshire Life; one for her and one for Peggy. Jennifer baulked at the idea of buying a third for Lilian and fled, sans chocolates.

Actually, I'm surprised that Susan didn't arrange for Chris to make a personal appearance at the shop, autographing copies of the magazine. She is convinced that every other publication for miles around will want a piece of her son.

Chris (who described the article as 'awesome' – Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff, obviously) then returned home unexpectedly and discovered Alice talking to a strange man. The fact that he was in Canada and they were talking on Skype didn't make him feel any better. Neither did it when Alice told him later that the company (DZT in case you want to buy – or sell - your shares) had called her up and this was in way of being an interview. Alice finally placated Chris by saying that she screwed up the interview and it won't come to anything.

Sure enough, a few days later, DZT got in touch and invited her for an interview in Canada. There was much talk about how this would affect their lives – she's all for it (the get-away-from-mum-Jennifer gene is obviously kicking in) but he says that he wouldn't be able to take his customers with him. That's the trouble – no customer loyalty nowadays.  Come on Chris – what about all those Mounties – someone has to shoe their horses, surely? "What about my forge?" he asks. Well, Chris, I'm no expert, but I'm willing to bet that they won't let you take it on as hand luggage.

Neil finds out about the situation and tells Susan, who has an attack of the vapours, saying that they would never be able to afford to go to Canada and see their grandchildren. Don't worry Susan – if Chris doesn't go, there won't be any. Besides, if Alice is earning the fabulous sum that she expects, she can afford to pay for you.

Tragedy in the Snell household, when Lynda discovers Wolfgang dead. It's a mystery, until she reveals that only yesterday, she was talking to him and brushing his coat for ages. An open-and-shut case of suicide if I've ever seen one. There is a monumental outpouring of grief over this dead llama – I mean, when Ivy Horrobin, Arthur and Bert Pullen died, we had a few kind words and memories, while Lynda gives it the whole Greek tragedy act.

Alistair arranges a post mortem and reports back on the preliminary results – there were lesions on Wolfgang's lungs and it could be TB. If it is, then the other two llamas would have to be tested and any positive reactors put down. "And what about the owners?" we all cried. Lynda, so often the model of propriety, decides not to tell neighbours David and Rooooth about it – it's only their entire livelihood, after all. Perhaps it's for the best, as David might pop round with his gun and dispense his own, effective medicine. Once again, all together: "And what about the owners, David?"

I can't help thinking that Matt and Lilian are going to come a cropper over the paper mill conversion. The Paul/Lilian saga thickened when he announced he'd got a flat ("a place of our own"). I worry too that Darrell has run into an old cellmate working as a foreman on a building site – I do hope he resists the inevitable forthcoming temptation to do something illegal, as I like Darrell. Elsewhere Pip continues her regression as a sulky teenager.

Pat and Tony return from holiday and Tom, loving son that he is, lets them get home and nearly get their coats off before he reveals his latest master plan – to buy in extra pig meat for the Ready Meals. But there's a slight problem – there's no spare organic meat, so he's considering buying non-organic meat. This will, of course, mean removing the word 'organic' from every Bridge Farm product and flying in the face of everything that Pat and Tony have tried to build up over the past decade or two. Tom argues that no-one wants or can afford organic nowadays, in which case, organic pork producers should be begging him to take their meat, surely?

Pat has a right go at him, unfortunately stopping just short of braining him with the poker, calling him 'ungrateful' and asking, "don't we deserve some loyalty?" A hurt Tom says "I've spent the last week showing how much the farm means to me." Nice one, Tom, but I can't help thinking that a bit more effort in the other 51 weeks as well wouldn't come amiss. Finally, if Tom is keen to sacrifice his principles and use any old meat – and he's not alone in these days of horsemeat in burgers and seahorse meat in fish fingers – then I can tip him off about a nice, dead llama that should do for a meal or two…

Sunday, 17 February 2013

"I love you – oh, and I love you too"

Michael Fenton Stevens (Paul Morgan)

Lilian proved herself once again as a creature of negotiable affection after spending Valentine's Day at a spa (followed by an excellent meal at Grey Gables) with Matt – "The toffee soufflĂ© is out of this world – if Ian wasn't already married to Adam, I'd marry him myself" lucky escape there Ian, although they are both smokers. Matt says "I really love you Pusscat", to which she replies "I know, I love you too."

So that's Paul out of the picture then? Yes, for nearly 24 hours, as Lil and Paul meet in Forset Magna. They go for a walk, but there's a complication – Jazzer has forgotten to deliver the cream order to the King's Arms and he comes across Paul and Lil out walking. Paul pretends to be an Estate Agent showing Lil some properties and, for reasons that aren't immediately apparent, Paul adopts a Scottish accent, which means Jazz interrogates him as to his origins.

Jazz goes off (poor sod has to sleep sometime, I suppose) and Lilian and Paul dissolve into laughter. He suggests a drink and she says "haven't you got champagne in your room?" They spend some time doing what adulterers do and Paul gives her her Valentine's present – it's a key and he says that it's symbolic; he'll find somewhere for them to be together (an apartment in Felpersham, for instance). "Paul, you're such a wonderful man." Lilian says. Perhaps we were misled earlier and what she told Matt was "I love you two."

Our two trainee shearers continue to bore the tits off us with Jazzer coming up with names for the shearing team. We had 'Dreadnaught' and 'Cutty Sark' (a Clipper, geddit?) which Ed thought might be right over the heads of most people around Ambridge. Too bloody right. Be honest, with Jazzer and Ed's business acumen, why not call it 'Titanic' and be done with it?

At the end of the week, Ed has bad news for Jazzer, as he has realised that the cost of equipment for shearing would be prohibitive, plus they will need a van. What? You mean the sheep won't present themselves in an orderly line for shearing?

Earlier in the week, we had Will's 30th birthday lunch at The Bull. The conversation between Will and Edward is strained, especially when Will comments on Ed's application for a charity grant for the shearing. Eventually, Clarrie talks to them separately and (sadly only metaphorically) bangs their heads together. She asks if they can't hug each other, but they settle for a handshake and nobody gets stabbed. 

Tom and Brenda continue to get dangerously close to talking about starting a family. They are impressed by how besotted Mike appears to be by Bethany (who is causing some sleepless nights). Mike has even devised his own nappy changing method – the mind boggles and I wouldn't be surprised if it involved a hose – but Tom still seems obsessed with the Tom Archer Brand and the Ready Meals and he is orgasmic on Valentine's Day to get a text from the bank, saying that they have looked at his business plan and want a further meeting. It hasn't occurred to him that this could be a meeting along the lines of Elizabeth's ('You find the first £300 K and we'll look at the rest') or even 'We wanted to see what sort of tosser could submit such a crap plan' and the mood at chez Tom and Brenda is optimistic. Mind you, he did take his life (or at least his goolies) in his hand when he told Brenda that she was having sausages for her home cooked Valentine's meal. Fortunately for him (sadly for us) he told her it was really tuna steak before she could stick the knife in.

It wasn't all lovey-dovey last week as Shula had some bad news – Bunty (late husband Mark's mother) died peacefully in her sleep while watching TV. Could have been worse – she could have been listening to the Archers. Shula imparted this information to Matt and Lilian while they were at Grey Gables, having already told them that she was feeling guilty for being there during Lent. Matt can't get his head round undergoing self-denial for 40 days (or even 40 minutes, if truth be told) and tells Lil that if you want something, go for it. It was the next day that Lilian went for it with Paul, so she obviously listens to Matt.

Finally, on Valentine's night, Rhys is working at The Bull and Fallon is working at Jaxx's. When Fallon is cashing up late at night, there is a knock on the door and there is Rhys, with Valentine's presents, protestations of love and a suggestion that she moves into the flat with him and she probably wants time to think about it. Fallon says "No!" forcibly and, taken aback, Rhys says "Well, I suppose we could carry on as we are." Fallon replies "No, I meant I don't want time to think about it – I'd love to move in." I know it was Valentine's Day, but whatever happened to playing hard to get?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Couple Of Jackaroos

Ryan Kelly Jack 'Jazzer' McCreary

First of all a note of celebration – by my reckoning, this is the 150th edition of this blog, so crack open the bubbly, light the candles and get stuck into the cake.

For those who don't know, a Jackaroo is a trainee on a sheep shearing station in Australia, while the answer I gave in a quiz – Buckaroo – is a children's game. The two Jackaroos in our title are Ed and Jazzer – Ed eventually took everybody's advice and applied to train as a sheep shearer and then David suggested that Jazzer apply as well. And why not?

After all, he only has to fit it into a schedule that includes an early morning milk round, helping Tom with the pigs and chasing anything in a skirt. Does this mean that Jazzer's affections will turn from 'my girls' to fluffier, woollier livestock? The two lads might even turn into Australians – certainly Jazzer is no stranger to the lager bottle – watch out for hats with corks around Ambridge.

It was interesting when Jazzer had a heart to heart with Rhys, telling the latter how lucky he was and he'd better treat her right. I'm sorry? This is the man whose idea of post-coital affection is to throw the girl the door keys so she can let herself out, so he can hardly lecture Rhys on how to treat women.

Lizzie's plans to expand Lower Loxley hit a snag when the bank – who I thought were being encouraged to lend us all money – told her that they would lend her some, if she could find the first £300,000. Lizzie is at her wit's end, no doubt thinking that if she had that sort of money she wouldn't need to approach the bank. Shula suggests that she sells an asset or two (Freddie and Lily spring to mind) but Lizzie worries that she won't be able to convince the Trustees.

Lewis remarks that she looks wiped out and she admits it's all getting to her. Give it up and get a Council House, Lizzie. As she is recovering from the re-naming ceremony of the Shire's Rare Breed Centre, the phone rings and it's Iftikar, telling her he'll be late for Freddie's lesson. He senses that Lizzie is busy and asks if he should call back? Lizzie proceeds to spend about 10 minutes telling him how busy she is and the talk turns to Nigel, Julia and Ifty's grandmother. After about 13 hours, Ifty apologises for the intrusion but Lizzie says "I've enjoyed our chat – in fact I always do." Are we being softened up for a romance, I ask myself? Should Ifty become Freddie and Lily's stepfather, then presumably Lizzie wouldn't have to pay for Freddie's maths tuition, so it could make sense.

Will's 30th birthday is coming up and Nic is determined that there is going to be a party with all the family sitting round a table, even if she has to drag him there, kicking and screaming. Whining and snivelling, more like. Nic confronts Ed (who doesn't want to go – even more so when Emma says they will have to buy Will a present) and says that he has to come along, for Clarrie's sake if nothing else. Ed gives in with bad grace.

Nic then has to tell Will that his brother will be coming and his reaction is predictable, saying that he doesn't want to look at Ed's ugly mug over dinner. Nic gets really (for her) angry, calling him 'childish' and giving him a right telling off. And good for her! In fact, I wouldn't have minded the rest of the episode being taken up with her slagging him off. "It's a family party and I want you both round the table for your Mum's sake." Sounds like it's going to be a barrel of laughs, lads.

Rob Titchener continues to tour the village, introducing himself to all and sundry. He compliments Ed on the quality of his milk (he had some of the Gold Top on his breakfast) and we learn later that he used to be a bell ringer and missed going out hunting when he was in Canada. In fact, Rob goes out with the hunt on Friday and Shula even entrusts him with Topper, so he must be an OK guy.

Paul and Lilian have trouble making a rendezvous and agree to meet on a station, but his train is late, so there are only a few moments together before he has to go somewhere else. The scriptwriters must have suffered writers' block, as we were transported back to 'Brief Encounter', complete with Lilian getting grit in her eye and an ex-headmistress acting as a gooseberry.

This got me thinking – what other films could the writers plagiarise – sorry, I meant make homage to? Jim and Jazzer could do 'The Odd Couple', while Clive Horrobin could do 'Psycho'. When Susan is behind the counter, we have 'Little Shop of Horrors' and Susan and Vicky could star in 'Jaws'. As for Will, there could be a whole festival: 'The Blob', 'Undead' and 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon' are three that spring to mind. Matt Crawford's transformation into a caring human being recalls 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers', while Will and ed could star in 'The Brothers Grimm'…

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Pip Off The Rails

Helen Monks (Pip Archer)

I fear that young Pip is getting into bad habits and I'm not alone, as mother Rooooth is concerned also. On Monday, Pip comes home and bangs around in the kitchen and Rooooth asks "what's going on?" Pip says that one of her tutors has it in for her and proceeds to get in a major strop with her Mum, saying that she only wants a life like other students and it's none of Rooooth's business.

On Wednesday Rooooth gets a text message from her daughter, saying that she won't be home tonight. Rooooth exhorts David to have a word with Pip about her behaviour ("she doesn't listen to me"). Sadly, David doesn't say "sorry love, did you say something?" and things get even worse on Friday when Rooooth is showing potential tenants round Rickyard and the place is a tip, with a pair of Spencer's pants in the lounge (too much information).

Rooooth asks Pip what the hell is she doing anyway, staying at Rickyard? Pip's answer is that she didn't want to wake her Mum up – such consideration in one so young! Pip also suggests that she and Spencer move into Rickyard. No suggestion of whether any rent should be paid, I notice.

Rooooth had a leading part last week – not only the Pip saga, but Rob Titchener asked if he could come and view the operation at Brookfield? She immediately goes into aggressive mode, even though Rob is friendliness itself and congratulates them on a 'finely-honed operation' and invites them to view the mega-dairy when it's up and running. "Just don't expect us to change our minds" snaps back Rooooth, forgetting David's early advice to 'be friendly'.

There was a nice moment when Rob talked about 'a strange woman who gets worked up over badgers'. "You've met Lynda" says David. Later on in the week David and Lynda talk and he asks how is the injured badger? An embarrassed Lynda admits that it had to be put down and you could almost hear David's smirk.

I'm starting to get a tad fed up with the whole Paul and Lilian saga – they met again last week and Paul suggests that it should be he who does all the running around, so Lilian doesn't have to keep making up excuses to get away. He says "I love you" and she replies "I love you too." Then get on with it! Either stay with Matt or run off with Paul, Lilian but for God's sake do something – if I have to listen to many more angst- and emotion-ridden phone calls, I'll go spare.

Daniel ruins Jim's day when he tells him that he doesn't want to do archaeology but is going to do a sports internship instead. Good for you Daniel – much more fun than digging around in the dirt.

Over at Emma and Neil's, having the family to stay is proving to be not quite the bed of roses that everyone hoped for. On Sunday, Emma falls out big time with her mother Susan. The reason? Emma had put Susan's favourite crystal bowl in the pile of washing to keep it out of Keira's way and when Susan picked it up, the bowl fell to the floor and shattered. Annoying, yes, but Susan's reaction was way over the top – you'd think Emma had set alight to the place from the way Susan banged on. Emma kept trying to apologise, but Susan was having none of it and, when Emma offered to but a replacement, her mother said – quite hurtfully, I thought – "If you could afford it, you wouldn't be living here."

There were some worrying conversations last week, with Tony telling Tom that Brenda cannot get enough of baby Bethany and Tom confiding that he and Brenda are thinking about a family. "How many kids are you thinking of having?" Tony asks, no doubt secretly hoping that the answer will be 'none'. Later on Tony tells Helen about Tom's family plans and she is surprised, as she thinks that Brenda isn't that keen. Hang on in there and stay strong Brenda.

Tom is still going on about taking the Tom Archer brand to the next level – honestly, it's like a computer game. Tom also talks sententiously about having something to leave to the next generation – i.e. his and Brenda's kids, Helen and Henry. What about Rich, or doesn't he count?

Finally, are we being prepared for a departure from Ambridge? Alice has been looking up details of life in Canada and, when challenged by Chris, she said that there was a job that she would have applied for, had it been in the UK. Will yet another of Jennifer's daughters be moving abroad? What with Kate living in South Africa and Debbie in Hungary, I think they might be trying to tell you something, Jen.