Monday, 25 March 2013

From Hero To Zero

Helen Monks (Pip Archer)

The waterlogged paddocks are taking up all David's time and, on Sunday, he tells a hungover Pip that she will have to take responsibility for the ewes and lambs. Pip says that she was hoping to take a break this holiday (a break from what, for heaven's sake?) but reluctantly agrees. Later on, David sees her in the shed with a lamb that she rescued when it got lost and he is impressed. "Good job Pip" he calls out as he leaves.

On Wednesday Pip is in a hurry to get to Spencer's, where they were going to walk the crops (be still my beating heart). Pip assures David that she has checked the sheep and trolls off, so David is not best pleased to say the least when he later finds a dead ewe and her two starved lambs. A furious David is all for phoning her right away (she's at a party) but Rooooth says leave it till tomorrow.

An unsuspecting Pip comes back the next day and is subjected to a barrage of sarcasm from her father before he tells her about the dead sheep. The ewe died of hypomagnesaemia, in case you are interested. It doesn't appear in my dictionary, but I suspect it might also be called staggers. "I'm so disappointed in you" David tells Pip.

Elsewhere there was intrigue when Darrell arrived home at 1am, dishevelled and dirty and wouldn't tell Elona where he had been, making up some story about drinking with unspecified friends. Have you noticed in Archers' stories that, when someone is down, or fallen on hard times, something else always comes along to kick them in the teeth? We had it with Ed and the broken down car and this week, Darrell's cup was well and truly running over when the fridge freezer packed up – another expense for the man with no job. I fear he is being drawn into nefarious activities. In a touching moment, daughter Rosa offered him £60 she had saved up, but he refused, as he still has some pride.

Back at the hospital, Alice tells Chris about the job offer and the one month to think about it. Later, Chris confides to Neil that he feels helpless and not in control of anything any more. He also tells Emma that the accident has made him realise what's important in his life – Alice, friends, family. Could be interesting if Alice wants to go to Canada. Later on a worried Shula turns up – she has been feeling responsible for Chris's accident – but he reassures her that it was entirely his fault and she shouldn't feel guilty, as her actions saved his life and he should be thanking her.

Jim Lloyd's latest article appeared in Borsetshire Life and he is mortified when his ironic article, complete with moronic questions like 'if you were an animal, which one would it be?' appeared in the magazine totally uncut. Even worse for Jim, whose by-line appears on the article, the BL Editor rang him to congratulate him on finally getting the hang of how the series of articles should be written.

Finally, Copernicus was wrong – the Earth doesn't go round the sun, it revolves around Tom Archer. The man has all the tact and finesse of a live hand grenade and the interpersonal skills of Pol Pot on one of his more fractious days.

On Monday, Tom tells Brenda that he is going to talk to (ie lecture) his parents about the economic case for using non-organic pork in the Ready Meals. She says, if they do agree, then he is not to crow about it. He has it all printed out and tells Tony that they can keep the copy he's given them. Tony's sarcastic response – "I'll frame it" – went right over his son's head.

Ambridge's Mr Tactful is soon in full swing, telling his parents that the facts are unanswerable and his business plan is the only way forward. "It's a no-brainer." Pat and Tony are too tired to fight any longer and give in to Tom's demands. As a jubilant Tom leaves, Tony says wearily "He's slowly undoing everything we've built up." Wrong Tony! He's bloody quickly undoing everything you've built up and Tony finds this out on Thursday when Tom reveals his latest piece of blue sky thinking – sell the dairy herd and buy in organic milk.

Tom points out that milking is a chore, especially for Tony since his heart attack, but it also eats up time that Tom could put to better use; presumably drawing up plans to convert Bridge Farm into a housing estate. Pat and Tony are appalled at the very idea but their pompous son says "Sometimes you have to think the unthinkable – it's called vision." No it's not, it's called arrogance, you jumped up little twerp. Honestly, he makes a couple of sausages and puts meat in a ready meal and suddenly he's a master of the universe.

Not only did Tom not tell sister Helen about his boffo wheeze, but he also neglected to mention it to Brenda and, when she finds out from a clearly upset and worried Tony and Pat, she takes Tom to task, accusing him of casually dismantling their lives and saying "if you drive your Dad to another heart attack, I hope you think it's worth it." Tom's answer to this is to storm out, asking "Am I the only one who can see the way forward?" Interestingly, one of the reasons that Tom put forward in support of his plans is to secure the future for his children, when he has them. Keep treating Brenda like you are Tom and that day could be a long way off – she might not even give you the chance to practise if you're not careful.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Over A Barrel, Darrell

Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

Oh dear, just as I find a character that I can have some sympathy for, it looks like he's going to go off the rails. I refer to Darrell, who met up with former cellmate Des and had rather a lot to drink. Des then mentioned a business proposition – he and a few like-minded friends hold a 'sporting evening' every now and then and they are looking for a new location and could Darrell help?

The fact that his question "What sort of sporting event?" remained unanswered, did not seem to set Darrell's alarm bells ringing, neither does he seem perturbed when Des says the barn needs to be away from other buildings and quiet. The whole thing is fishier than a sardine sandwich, but Darrell is tempted, especially as his work at Home Farm is coming to an end and wife Elona has had her hours cut at the care home. Just to make matters worse, when he is decorating, Jennifer tells him to take the key cabinet off the wall and shows him where Brian keeps the cabinet key.

What do you reckon? Cockfighting? Dog fighting? Whatever it is Darrell, I'd steer clear, although admittedly if you get banged up again you won't have to worry about food and accommodation.

Elsewhere, I'm delighted to say that people seem to be queuing up to tell Tom what a self-centred, inconsiderate, thoughtless, jumped-up little git he is – and good for them, I say. The latest to stick in the knife is Kirsty, when Tom is banging on about Ready Meals – bet that came as a surprise to you – and she calls him "Mr. One-track mind" and tells him that people are laughing at him behind his back. He protests, somewhat unconvincingly, and she tells him to think on, adding cuttingly "not every sentence has to have the word 'sausages' in it."

Well said Kirsty! And this comes after Tom had had a meeting with his parents to discuss the way forward for the farm; a meeting which, quite frankly, could have gone better for him. It went something like this:
Tom: "I've had this idea to expand the ready meals by buying in more meat."
Tony: "Is it organic?"
Tom: "Well…no."
Pat: "Close the door on your way out, Tom."

Over at the hospital, Emma is delighted when Chris opens his eyes and squeezes her hand; it seems he is fighting back. The same day, Tom went to see him (that should set his recovery back) and Tom tells Brenda that they had a few words. I'm betting the words were 'sausages', 'Ready Meals' and 'footballing pigs'.

While Chris lies on his bed of pain, listening to the Pain drone on, Alice is feeling guilty, as she wonders whether or not it was her fault because he was unhappy and distracted because she had gone to Canada. Chris tells her that yes, he was unhappy, but what happened with the horse was entirely his fault. People are talking in the village (yes, I do mean you, Jazzer and Ed) but, as Amy tells Alice, as long as Chris isn't blaming her, it doesn't matter what others are saying.

As Alice is enjoying a coffee with Amy, her phone rings and, later on, we learn that the company in Canada have offered her the job. Bloody hell, she must be good – I bet even Frank Whittle wasn't snapped up that quickly. Jennifer is confident that Alice will turn the job down, but Alice says that they quite understand about Chris and they've given her a month to make up her mind. Did I say she was good? She must be bloody fantastic.

Mother's Day at Brookfield didn't go according to plan, mostly because Pip never turned up to oversee the cooking, as promised. Much bickering among the Archer siblings and later on in the week, Rooooth and David console themselves with the thought that, as it is the holidays, their eldest daughter will help out on the farm a bit more. Pip, however, has other plans, telling Tom and Brenda that she's looking forward to a week off with Spencer and it might be a good idea if they actually went away somewhere. Do that Pip and I reckon you can expect to find your stuff on the lawn outside Brookfield when you return home.

Things look like they might be beginning to look up for Ed, as Mike offers him 1p a litre more for the milk and agrees to a marketing campaign. The ideas are soon buzzing and we have copy such as "bottled daily by Mike the Milkman" and a description of the milk as "like nostalgia in a bottle." Oddly enough, this last quote was from Rob, who will be running the mega-dairy and whose product description is more likely to be along the lines of "like whitewash in a carton."

Finally, we had evidence of what a kind-hearted lad Ed is, when he took Mrs James an extra £500 on top of the £250 that they paid for her old Fergie tractor. Jazzer is absolutely disgusted – I'm surprised he never told Mrs James that she had to pay for the paint to do it up – but before we praise Ed too much, remember that they sold the tractor for £3,800, so even giving up an extra £500, they are still trousering a fair wedge.

Monday, 11 March 2013

But How Did The Interview Go, Alice?

Tom Graham (Tom Archer)

No doubt about the main story of last week, but more of Chris Carter later.

Let's start off by celebrating the fact that Tom ('have a signed photograph') Archer was told some unpleasant, but totally accurate, home truths by both his mother and his girlfriend. His week began badly when his clattering round the kitchen woke up Brenda, who had been hoping for a lie-in. Tom was sulking about having to do early morning milking, as he could make better use of the time. Running the UK economy or solving the Eurozone crisis, no doubt.

"You can't blame me for feeling hacked off" he tells Brenda. Wrong! Brenda tells him to "grow up and get over it" and goes back to bed, leaving him hurt and still sulking. Later on he apologises and says he will have to sort things out with mother Pat, as she's giving him the silent treatment. Brenda counsels warning, telling him "give it some thought – don't just go wading in." As if!

Early next day, Pat finds Tom preparing veg boxes, which makes her immediately suspicious. Instead of just getting on with it, Tom has to tell her that they are doing it wrong and people really want more exotic veg. Pat disagrees and the temperature drops another few degrees. Someone should tell Tom the old adage that 'when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging' as later on he goes to have it out with Pat again, telling her "people" (by which he means Tom Archer) "think our veg boxes are dull." "Have you had any complaints?" Pat snaps at him "Well – no" he admits, prompting her to say "Until you do, this subject is closed."

If the week started badly for Tom, it finished even worse. Brenda rang him, moaning that she has to work late as Lilian has dumped all her work on her. Tom promises to get supper and, when Brenda comes home, he has put a frozen pizza in the oven. Bren is not happy and, when Tom starts banging on about his parents again, she loses it, telling him "as far as you're concerned, the future is about Tom Archer, not Helen, not Pat or Tony" and she suggests that Tom apologises to his parents. A stunned Tom asks wonderingly "Is that what you think of me?" and five million listeners nod and say "Too bloody right!"

And so to Chris, whose week was even worse. On Sunday, he takes Alice to the airport for her flight to Canada and the job interview and the atmosphere between them is strained, to say the least. He leaves her at the gate, turning away with a perfunctory "bye then". The next night, Chris goes out and gets really drunk – we are led to believe that it is because Alice has gone, but personally I reckon it was because Tom was there and who wouldn't take refuge in alcohol in that case?

Next day Chris was hungover and, when treating a horse at the stables, he received a kick in the chest from said animal, resulting in a trip to hospital by air ambulance. Poor Chris is not a well bunny – fluid in the abdomen, partly detached ribcage, later on we learn that his bowel is ruptured and he is on a ventilator in intensive care. All in all, I think it's fair to say that he won't be turning out for Ambridge Wanderers for the rest of the season.

Back at the stables, Shula is distraught and comforted by Alistair. Shula is also worried about Freddie, who witnessed the incident, saying "Poor Freddie was traumatised." Poor Freddie? I dare say Chris was somewhat taken aback too. Later on in the week we learn that Freddie feels responsible, as he dropped a tray and shouted, just before the horse struck and he thinks he spooked the animal. Iftikar reassures him that it was a tragic accident and not his fault, taking his mind off things by getting him to convert hands (as in measuring horses) to centimetres and to work out in Newtons the force needed to detach someone's ribcage with one kick.

The Carter and Aldridge families gather at Chris's bedside and we learn that Alan turned up one day. Lucky Chris didn't wake up – imagine coming out of a coma and seeing a priest standing over you! Brian managed to get in touch with Alice in Canada, who immediately had hysterics and arranged a flight home via Seattle and Amsterdam. A convoluted itinerary to be sure, but at least she had an eight-hour stopover in Amsterdam, so she could stock up with wacky baccy if she wanted.

The week ended with a tearful Alice telling Chris that she hated how they parted, but she's back now and Chris just has to get better "You just have to", she says, sobbing. I fear we are in for many more tearful moments and that we have a long vigil in front of us.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Go West, Young Alice

Hollie Chapman (Alice Aldridge)

Susan was bemoaning the fact that Alice is considering the Canada job and, when Chris explains that Alice is fed up with her job, Susan turns philosopher, saying "We all get fed up sometimes – that's life." Neil, predictable as ever, says that she's lucky to have a decent job at all, while Susan concedes that "there's nothing wrong with being ambitious", which begs the question how the hell would she know?

Jennifer confronts Alice, asking "Have you thought this Canada thing through?" No Jennifer, she just stuck a pin in a map of the world. Jen throws herself into finding decorating jobs to be done and Brian complains about her going into overdrive. Actually, Brian is taking his life in his hands, as while Jennifer is trying to dissuade Alice, Brian urges her to "get out there and grab the opportunity with both hands." If Jen knew that, Brian would be toast.

Susan bursts into tears at home, asking Neil how would they get on when grandchildren come along? Nobody seems to have considered the possibility that this situation might split up Chris and Alice, or that she could go to Canada and he could stay in Ambridge. In the shop later on, Susan thinks that Jennifer has encouraged Alice in her ambitions to go to Canada but Jennifer denies this, saying "I can't understand why my daughters think they have to move abroad." The rest of us can, Jennifer, although I for one am mystified that Adam came back from Africa.

The week ended with Alice telling Chris that she is going for the interview and has booked the flight – I hope she's being reimbursed, as money is tight chez Carter. Chris accuses her of going behind his back, which she denies, although coming home with an airline ticket and a copy of "Teach Yourself Canadian" sounds a bit like it to me.

It seems that this is the week for daughters to give their parents grief, as Rooooth is following David around the farm, moaning that she doesn't know what Pip is doing or where she is sleeping. Make the most of it, I say – rent her room out if you can. On Friday, Rooooth does confront Pip (who is on a flying visit to Brookfield, presumably to pick up some clean clothes) and Pip accuses her of 'interrogating' her. As Pip points out, if she was away at university, Rooooth wouldn't know where she was going or what she was doing "which is how it should be." Or to put it another way, butt out, Rooooth.

Paul takes Lilian to see the apartment that he has rented for them both as a love nest and they proceed to christen it as such, Lilian leading the way to the bedroom, clutching a bottle of champagne. Later on, they spend the day at antiques fairs, looking for furniture for their nookie flat. I thought that Lilian was supposed to be busy? However, we learned how she manages to make the time, as she dumps all her work on Brenda, telling her it is the chance for her to take on more responsibility. Brenda isn't impressed and, when Matt returns later, she says that she hasn't been able to do any of her own work. "I hope that includes getting me a coffee" says boss-of-the-year Matt. Luckily for him there are no sharp objects within Brenda's reach.

Poor Brenda, what with all that work and then having to go back home to Tom. He's not a happy bunny, as it was his birthday last week and Pat didn't prepare the usual birthday supper and he and Brenda had to go to the pub. Why is he surprised? If my child had told me their plans for the future, which meant sweeping away everything I'd built up over the years, then I too might not be in the right mood to cook them a feast. Tom feels that he has to ring Brenda up for a moan. Unfortunately it is when she is particularly harassed at work and she snaps "Just chill out. How old are you – five?" Well said Bren.

Wednesday was the day of Bunty's funeral and once again, there was less mourning and kind words than we had for Wolfgang the llama. Speaking of the llama, Lynda decides not to burden David and Rooooth with the knowledge that they could have a potential source of TB living next door until if and when it is confirmed that it was TB that carried Wolfgang off. In the meantime, she moves the other two llamas away from land adjoining Brookfield, erects an electric fence and, for all I know, digs a moat and has the field patrolled by armed guards. Should TB be confirmed, I can't help thinking that David will be less than 100% impressed by the delay.

Loveable rogue Jazzer lost the 'loveable' bit when he paid one of his elderly customers a measly £250 for a vintage tractor. Ed had misgivings about the pathetic price, but Jazzer bought it and presented Ed with a fait accompli, telling him that they were doing the old girl a favour, as she can now have use of her garage. Why stop there Jazzer? You could really do her a favour – if you clear the house out of furniture and valuables, just think what she'll save by not having to buy contents insurance…