Monday, 29 July 2013

Watch Your Back, Kathy

Hedli Niklaus (Kathy Perks)

Kathy hasn't had a big part in any recent storylines, but she featured prominently last week, when Martyn Gibson announces that the golf club committee have given him a roving brief to look into every aspect of how the club's being run, why revenues are down and could Kathy have a detailed financial report ready for him by Monday?

I can suggest one reason why revenue is down – it appears that an integral part of Martyn's new responsibilities is having a scotch on standby at all times and not paying for it. Nice work if you can get it. Meanwhile, Kathy is being fitted out with the 'scapegoat' outfit and a portable gallows is being built on the 18th green – I fear that she hasn't heard the last of Martyn. Incidentally, congratulations to the actor playing Martyn – his slimeball voice couldn't be better.

We don't know what Kathy thinks of the forthcoming nuptials between Jolene (widow of Kathy's former husband Sid) and Kenton (ex live-in lover) but I suspect she won't be on the top table at the reception. Speaking of Jolene and Kenton, he's splashing out a bit, isn't he? Firstly he buys Jolene a diamond engagement ring, then we hear him on the phone to Meriel in New Zealand, telling her about the wedding and that he'll pay for her to come over. Where's all this money coming from? If I were Jolene I'd check the tills in The Bull and if I were Meriel, with Kenton's reputation for unreliability, I'd start swimming now.

Sunday's episode was taken up largely by the Fete/Highland Games and Lynda being incensed when Kathy tells her that she recognises Dougie (the alleged Clan Chief brought along by Jazzer to open proceedings) as someone who works in a fish and chip shop in Borchester. Lynda is all for denouncing Jazzer as a fraud over the PA system, until Jim convinces her that Dougie does in fact have a case for founding a new clan. Jim's case seems to be based on the fact that Dougie is Scottish, which sounds a bit thin to me. Lynda, however, does a complete about turn and wonders if Dougie would address the haggis at her next Burns' Night supper.

Actually, Lynda featured a lot last week too; while Caroline is off sick, Lynda has stepped up to the plate at Grey Gables and is full of good ideas, receiving praise from Oliver. Her best idea was sending Will in via the back entrance for his meeting with Brian and Martyn, because of his dust-laden working clothes. Good for you Lynda, although I would have had him hosed down in the yard first.

Just as Rob and Helen seemed to be getting closer, there was a cooling off. Rob was looking for places to photograph for the Welcome Pack to be given to the mega-dairy staff and Helen suggests a local beauty spot, which is a favourite of Henry's and they are going there on Saturday if Rob would like to join them. He tells her that Jess (his wife) is coming up to Ambridge for the weekend and, feeling slightly embarrassed, Helen leaves. The next day, however, as Rob is out photographing with Tom, the talk turns to Helen and Tom says he's surprised that it isn't her showing Rob round the nature reserve. There is talk of how Helen has combined running a shop, making and selling cheese with being a good mother. "That's what so impressive about her" says Rob.

There is a twist on Friday when Rob drops into Ambridge Organics to stock up on cereal bars, furious because Jess phoned to say she can't drive up to Ambridge and he has to go to Hampshire, or wherever Jess's parents live. Rob admits that things haven't been too good between them recently and Ambridge would be a good place to start over, but Jess is being totally unreasonable. He is grateful to Helen for listening and has calmed down before setting off. Later, Pat learns that Helen and Rob were chatting in the AO office and she immediately asks whether Rob's wife is any closer to finding work in Ambridge, to which Helen replies "I don't know Mum and I don't care – it's none of my business." Hmm.

We had a warning of the folly of acting on impulse when Lilian had an AmSide cheque bounce and subsequently found out that Matt has been drawing on the account in Russia. Incensed, she stops his cards, then feels guilty because she realises he'll have no money to live on. Sadly, to reinstate his cards, she will have to send new ones to St. Petersburg, but he isn't answering his phone, so she doesn't know where to send them. The story of Matt and Brenda (who, we learn from a conversation between Helen and Fallon, has a new boyfriend in Russia) is being played out on Radio 4 Extra – don't get me started.

Lastly, we had a reminder that Will is going to be a father again when he and Dad Eddie discuss possible names. Eddie is all for 'Gilbert' and 'Duncan', but Will isn't keen. Will says he had a job dissuading Nic from choosing Adele as a name and Eddie says that could have caused confusion, as one of his ferrets is called Adele. I can see that – if someone asks "Should I change Adele?" or "Have you put Adele's name down for nursery school?", you'd have to ask yourself "now, are they talking about the ferret or not?" Eddie then says that Joe would be delighted if the child were to be named after him – I don't know about you, but personally I think it would be cruel to call a child 'Miserable, moaning old git'.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Popping The Question – Eventually

Richard Attlee (Kenton Archer)

We had a long (some might say tedious) build up about Kenton last week – on Monday he was helping David with some lambs and tells his brother that he has been thinking about Mum and Dad a lot. David later confides in Rooooth that Kenton appears restless and "I just hope he's not going to chuck everything away in Ambridge just to chase some dream elsewhere." What, like seeing his daughter for the first time in decades, do you mean?

On Tuesday, Kenton talks to Tony about the forthcoming Highland Games and even Tony notices he seems distracted, so when Helen turns up, he asks her "would you describe Kenton as sensitive?" She resists the urge to laugh out loud or say "compared to what?" and Tony says "there's definitely something eating away at him." Having planted the seed, the writers then ignored Kenton till Friday (the night of the ceilidh at The Bull), when he keeps trying to talk to a rapidly-getting-frazzled Jolene on her own and is interrupted by people like Tony who want to talk.

Eventually he does get to speak to Jolene and says he's been thinking how much she means to him and he'd like to ask – Immediately Jolene yells "Yes! I will marry you!" It would have been good if Kenton had said "I didn't mean that – I just thought we should increase our life insurance" but he didn't. Pity.

Brenda proved that she is no loss to the Secret Service when she eventually rings Lilian to tell her that she's not coming back. And that's all she has to tell her, but for some inexplicable reason, she also lets slip that she's spoken to Matt and that he's in Russia. It must have been the cunning way that Lilian said "Hello, Brenda" that forced the information from her unwilling lips.

Mind you, Brenda has only just recovered from saying goodbye to her family and trying to stop Vicky from giving her things ("Go on Brenda, take it – you never know when you might need a kitchen sink"). The last straw came when Vicky gave her a Teddy Bear "to remind you of home." Bet you never knew that the woods around Ambridge contained bears – we live and learn. Brenda tries everything not to take it, but eventually relents and reconciles herself to paying a four-figure excess baggage sum.

As for Lilian, her new temp, Anthea, is driving her slowly insane, with the accent on 'slowly'. Anthea is a pedant's pedant and insists on procedures being followed to the letter and keeping regular lunch hours. This annoys Lilian, for whom lunch is a moveable feast, often ended only when Jolene says "sorry Lilian, you've drunk us out of gin" and she's desperately missing Brenda's flexibility and ability to wing it on her own initiative.

Drama at Grey Gables! While Lynda is wittering on about some watch that she's found, Caroline is obviously in great pain. Of course she's too busy to go home, so Lynda rings up Oliver, who goes up to Grey Gables and forcibly drags his wife away. Oliver thanks Lynda, but she's too busy unscrewing Caroline's name plate off the office door and replacing it with her own.

The drama boils over to the swishing! Caroline was meant to do the meeting and greeting and, just as Jennifer moans for the umpteenth time about being let down, Oliver turns up as her replacement. Jennifer feels guilty and welcomes him. Sadly for Oliver, he is given a position near the door and not in the changing rooms. On the subject of swishing, it raised £500 on the door on the night – that's 50 women trying on clothes, which begs the questions where did they get 50 women in Ambridge? And where was it held – the O2 arena? The icing on the cake was a donation of $15,000 from American Curtis Tring (he learned about the organ fund from the website); a relative of good old, old-time villager Zebedee Tring. No, I've never heard of him before either, but perhaps there are other US citizens with more money than sense that could be exploited.

By the way, Caroline went to the doctor's next day, where she was diagnosed with shingles and made to wait in a room by herself to prevent infection. Complete bedrest was ordered and, after about half an hour, she's climbing the walls in frustration and boredom, watching her box set of 'Little House on the Prairie' (what a waste of technology). But cheer up Caroline; it could have been worse – at least you were spared the swishing.

In last week's blog we suggested that Rob has Tony wrapped around his little finger, but on Thursday Rob turns up to look at Tony's MG, having earlier helped Tom move an ark and hearing about (and encouraging) his plans for world domination. When Rob leaves, Tony and Pat both agree that he is a bad influence. However, Pat means a bad influence on Helen, while Tony is worried that Rob is egging Tom on to do too much, too quickly (Tom has already invited him to the pub some night for a pint and a talk about brand stretching, new products and all the other things that used to make Brenda (and us) reach for the wrist-slitters). Tony voices his concerns to Pat, saying that if Rob carries on like this "Tom will never listen to common sense again!" What does he mean, "again"?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Not-So-Happy Birthday

Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

Before we start this week, I'd like to say how much I agree with all the listeners who besieged the BBC (according to the 'Feedback' radio programme) to complain about how the denouement of the Matt/Lilian saga was played on Ambridge Extra, rather than the Radio 4 network. From all accounts, the vast majority of people were incensed that they had missed Matt telling Lilian that he knew she had been screwing his brother and what a betrayal it was. Hopefully the powers that be will look out of their windows at Broadcasting House at the sea of flaming torches and pitchforks and think again before deserting Radio 4, which is the natural (and should be the only) home of The Archers!

Lilian returns home alone, telling Jolene that Matt has stayed on in Montenegro "to do some business." She also mentions that the holiday had been a total disaster and tells Jolene about how Matt had told her that he knew about the affair between Lilian and Paul all along. Lilian says that she wants to put things right – something that, I submit, will take considerable effort – but it's not easy as "I don't know when – or even if – he's coming back."

Monday was Lilian's 66th birthday and it was drinks all round at Home Farm. Lilian feels pretty wretched and her mood is not helped by Jennifer wittering on about Matt. The following day, we learn (when Brian visits Brenda at work to return Lilian's lighter) that Lilian put away a bottle of wine before dinner last night.

Lilian continues to wind Brenda up by not pulling her weight at AmSide and Brenda is not too thrilled to learn that Matt isn't coming back yet, so she is now doing the work of three of them. Things come to a head on Tuesday when Brenda cannot take any more and tells Lilian some home truths and that they only pay her a pittance. Lilian replies in kind, saying "How dare you speak to me like that?" and "We've taught you everything you know." Brenda calls Lilian "spoiled, demanding, moody and unpredictable" and says "I don't know why it's taken me so long, but you can stuff your job!"

Brenda is experiencing feelings of relief and freedom, plus a delicious sense of revenge, as Lilian keeps ringing Brenda's mobile and, listening to Lilian's voicemail messages, with phones ringing in the background and an increasingly-hassled manner, Brenda chuckles to herself. Eventually, Lilian drives round to see Brenda, but she's away in London, so Roy and Hayley bear the brunt of Lilian's wrath.

Far from being contrite, Lilian tells Roy and Hayley to tell Brenda that she has made her point "but this nonsense stops here and I expect her back in the office tomorrow." Lilian then drives off and Roy says to Hayley "She's not exactly apologising, is she?" But there is much worse to come for Lilian, as, at the end of the week, Brenda reveals that her trip to London was for business and she has agreed to work with Matt in property development in Russia. Brenda views this as a massive opportunity rather than Matt getting revenge, like the rest of us. If anybody asks, the cover story is that she will be travelling in Europe with a friend. Mike is not convinced, telling Vicky: "I don't like the sound of this – Matt Crawford and Russia; one's bad enough. I just hope she doesn't get mixed up in anything dodgy." What? Matt?

Elsewhere, Pip has achieved sainthood in Jill's eyes by giving up the chance to do some relief milking because she is running Brookfield while David and Rooooth are in France on holiday and she's loving it.

What else? Freddie didn't win a rosette – or rather, his heifer Sorrell didn't, but this won't stop him trying again, so we're still on for the possible trampling. Bridge Farm is now officially a cow-free zone, as Tony sold Lonely Cow (for a cool £1,450). The more astute of you will notice that, over the past two weeks, I haven't mentioned 'swishing' once. Neither do I intend to, unless it turns out to be a spectacular storyline, or embarrasses Jennifer.

Finally, what a smoothie that Rob Titchener is! On Thursday he turns up at Bridge Farm for dinner cooked by Helen and immediately gains a brownie point by bringing organic wine. He is charm personified and tells Helen she will have to teach him how to cook the dish. However, Pat seems immune to his charm offensive and says pointedly that he won't need to cook for himself when his wife comes to Ambridge. Pat then starts on about the mega-dairy but is rebuked by Helen, who says "All right Mum, that's enough".

At the end of the evening Pat says "Thank God that's over." Tony thought it went well, but Pat said that it was odd how Rob clammed up when she mentioned his wife – and he didn't stack the plates. He's probably afraid of having his head bitten off, truth be told. The following day, Rob drives up to Bridge Farm, bearing an enormous 'thank you' bouquet for Pat, but she is not bowled over. On the other hand, Tony is a pushover – Rob asks him about the wetland system and, when he takes up Tony's offer to show it to him, that's Tony firmly on side as well as Helen, Rob – you just need to keep working on Pat.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Would You Like To Lie Down For A Bit, Tony?

Colin Skipp (Tony Archer)

On Sunday, Bridge farm took another step closer to cowlessness when Jago came up from Cornwall to collect the dairy cattle that will form the foundation of his new herd. Far from being sad, Tony finds that he is feeling elated, as he is pleased that the cows are going to someone with a passion for dairying, rather than any old buyer. By the way, Lonely Cow turned out not to have TB, so can be sold.

"The baton is being passed to a new generation" he tells Tom, which makes the latter a bit uncomfortable, as he is one of the next generation and it was his idea to sell the cows in the first place. Not so much passing on the baton as tossing it carelessly to one side. Tony also said that Jago reminded him of his younger self, which presumably means that Jago was a whining, misanthropic, mean sourpuss. But wait! Strike 'mean' from that list as, when Jago rides off into the sunset with the cows, Tony says to Tom "Let's go to The Bull for a pint – and your Dad's in the chair!" Steady on Tony – the shock might be too much for Tom, not to mention us.

Last week I omitted to congratulate Pip on getting her Desmond (2:2, geddit?) so well done her. It seems that Pip is currently in 'nice daughter' mode as she tries to persuade her Mum and Dad to take a few days off – the Champagne region looks nice. "I can look after the farm" she says, confidently. I don't know, they get a degree and they think they can do anything. It seems that the Archer children have all taken a dose of responsibility syrup, as Josh asks his Dad to drive him to Lower Loxley, as he wants to speak to Hayley.

It turns out that, when Hayley had cancelled the farmers' markets that Josh had booked in an ill-advised rash of enthusiasm, he had been rude to her and he wanted to apologise. This manifestation of maturity so impressed Hayley that she offered to pay half the cancellation costs. It also impressed David when Hayley told him about it later, making him feel proud. "What did I do to deserve such a brilliant family?" David asks when back at Brookfield. You weren't saying that when Pip was going out with Jude, or when she let two lambs die, were you David?

The other reason for Josh going to Lower Loxley is so he can teach Freddie the finer points of halter training a heifer. Freddie has a tendency to be away with the fairies part of the time (that'll be the Nigel gene kicking in) and Josh tries to make him see that he needs to concentrate if he is to show Sorrell at the Borsetshire Show this weekend. And while we are on the subject, what a compelling and edge-of-the-seat bit of radio when we had David talking Freddie through how to fit the halter "…that's right, now the chinstrap…" I was bored to tears and I only kept listening because a) I thought 'it's only a halter, it can't go on much longer' and b) after the build up about how Freddie doesn't concentrate etc, I was sure that Sorrell would break free and trample him. She didn't, but there's always the show on Sunday.

George continues to exhibit a pious tendency, praying every spare moment and, in an attempt to divert his attention, Emma and Neil create his own garden for him. God would probably be glad of the break too. The plan misfires when Neil brings George a pig statue from Granddad Eddie (he probably knocked off 10% for family) and Emma says "What do you say?" George promptly thanks God for giving him the statue and Emma gets stroppy, suggesting that he saves his prayers for bedtime or, even better, for church on Sunday, upon which George says that Emma should come as well. Nice petard you've got there, Emma!

Talking of church, the flower festival made £1,200 and the organ fund now stands at £4,500. Only another £25,500 to go and I fear we will be subjected to hearing how every penny is raised.

Lynda has booked a performance poet for the Highland Games. Not only is he Scottish, but he will be willing to open the event. Jazzer is incensed, saying that he has already booked his clan chief, which is stretching the actualité more than somewhat. However, it doesn't matter, because frankly I don't give a toss what happens.

Helen seems to be developing a predatory side as she asks Pat if Rob can come to dinner one night. Pat is taken aback, but Helen explains that he is super company, very good with Henry and hung like a stallion. Actually, I made that last one up, but you never know – especially if Helen gives Pat and Tony a few quid to go to the pictures and not come home before 1am. Later Pat confides to Tony that she is anti the idea of Rob coming round because of his connections with the mega-dairy. In all these conversations, nobody once mentioned the fact that Rob is already married.

Finally, we come to Brenda, who negotiated what sounded like a good deal for tenants at number three, only to have it rubbished and her head bitten off by Lilian the grouch over the phone from her holiday in Montenegro. Brenda is approaching the end of her tether and complains about her life to father Mike, saying: "I have zero love life, a job I hate and I'm living in my brother's house." Hey Bren, every cloud has a silver lining – at least you've split up with Tom and need never again hear the words 'Ready Meals' fourteen times a day.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Will Rob Go For Lonely Cow?

Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer)

Before you complain about this week's headline, I'd like to say that it was suggested by my friend Karen and nothing to do with me. Pre-Henry, I would have heartily agreed with this as a description of Helen, but since having a sprog, the woman has become practically human and you can understand why Rob is showing interest, especially as he hasn't seen his wife (if she exists) for ages.

The bovine lonely cow (potential TB reactor, kept apart from the other cows as a precaution) must be suffering with earache – on Monday Tony catches Tom talking to the cows – probably explaining the marketing strategy for Ready Meals to them - and Tom has some nice things to say about his father's pioneering work in the organic field. He manages to avoid being patronising and tells his Dad that he knows what he's giving up and thank you.

On Tuesday (the day before the sale) Helen tells Tom that the thought of Bridge Farm without the cows has just started to hit her – go and have a conversation with them, love, but you may have to wait in line. After the sale on Wednesday, Tony turns the lonely cow (the four-footed one) out into a field, saying "yes old girl, you'll miss them, won't you? And so will I."

While the other members of the family are sighing and looking back, Tom has no time for such maudlin sentimentality, telling Helen the day before the sale "It's the right decision – let's enjoy tomorrow; it will be a new beginning." Right decision or not, the sale went ahead and was a success, with Tony reckoning that, after commission, they will clear around £140 grand.

Tony and Pat decide to donate the profits from selling teas etc. to the organ fund and Tom also donates the profits from Gourmet Grills. At this rate, St Stephens will be able to afford the organ from the Albert Hall. I can understand Pat wanting to support the church, but quite why Tom (who probably doesn't even know where the church is) is donating is a mystery. Likewise Tony, who is famously tight with money and for whom the saying "the first time I went to church, they threw water over me, the second time it was confetti and next time it will be earth" might have been coined.

On Friday, Pat gets emotional as the last of the milkers are led off, saying "we're not a dairy farm any more." Got it in one, Pat! Selling off the herd might have had something to do with that.

Bethany's christening went off OK and the flower festival story reached its climax, if that isn't too strong a word. Clarrie switched on her arrangement, causing a power spike in the National Grid, all the while wondering why Christine doesn't seem to be panicking and not working on her arrangement. The reason – surprise, surprise – is that Christine's arrangement consists of three white lilies in a vase, lit from above by a single light. Nic says that it looks very classy and Clarrie is mortified at her own efforts. Her mood is not improved when Jolene turns up and says "that arrangement is really over the top", not knowing that it is Clarrie's. "Why didn't you stop me?" Clarrie asks Nic. "We did try" she answered. Thank God that story is over.

Life at Roy and Hayley's becomes fraught, with Phoebe and Abby not enjoying having to share a room and having a shouting match. Brenda picks up on the atmosphere (little signs like being spat at by the girls and having death threats pushed underneath her door) and tells Roy that she will start looking tomorrow for somewhere else to live. It occurred to me that Darrell's house is empty and Bren is being given a hard time by Lilian at not having found a tenant – an ideal opportunity, surely? But then I remembered that Tom lives next door, which could make things awkward.

Things are not all sweetness and light at Caroline and Oliver's, with Caroline working all hours. In conversation with Tom, Oliver says that it's been like this since Roy left. Good God, man, that was two years ago! If Roy was so indispensable, shouldn't they have looked for a replacement by now?

Anyway, Oliver has booked a nice restaurant for their anniversary and a taxi to take them so he can have a drink. He rings Caroline up at Grey Gables to tell her to get a move on and she tells him there has been an emergency – a woman guest, travelling with a baby and a toddler has been taken ill and the paramedics are on their way and she's a bit busy at the moment. Instead of saying "I understand" and quietly withdrawing, Oliver gets all arsey and moans because Caroline never rang him to tell him and he had to ring her. How inconsiderate of you Caroline – the least you could have done was to kick the collapsed guest out of the way and rung home, the paramedics could have waited.

Finally, what has happened to Fallon and Rhys? They suddenly seem to have vanished from the face of the earth - even when there are scenes in the Bull (Bethany's christening for example) Rhys is noticeable by his absence and Jolene hasn't mentioned Fallon for weeks – how quickly they forget!