Sunday, 26 January 2014

Where There's A Will…

June Spencer OBE (Peggy Woolley)

…You'll usually find a few unsatisfied people having a moan. Last week, Peggy called her children and partners together and they were expecting to hear what Jack had left them in his will. Peggy had put some of Jack's treasured possessions on display and we learned that his taste was, to put it charitably, not of the best. Even better, Peggy managed to get shot of lots of old tat, by presenting family members with said keepsakes, which they could hardly refuse.

As to the will, Peggy revealed that Witch Hazel gets the lion's share, while Peggy gets The Lodge and is adequately provided for. This has made her think about her own bequests when her time comes and she tells Jen and Brian that they have done well for themselves and their children are in no danger of running short. Equally, Lilian and Matt have been successful and don't need the money. Then there's Tony – what can she say about Tony?

'Not much really' is the answer – she accepts that he has done sterling work in his organic enterprise but she feels that her money should go to those who can make best use of it. Tony is just getting his wallet out and rehearsing his 'thank you' speech when Peggy drops her bombshell – she is going to leave The Lodge to Helen and everything else is going to Tom.

This goes down like a lead balloon with Pat and Tony, who regard it as a thinly-veiled accusation that they cannot provide for their children and cannot be trusted with Peggy's money. Pat especially is unhappy and she first tries to get Tony to talk to Peggy and change her mind, but he says 'no'. Later on, Pat tackles Lilian, who admits that she was slightly disappointed (especially when she and Matt ended up with the picture of the crying gypsy girl – Matt's comment "you'd never get tired of setting alight to that" tells you everything you need to know about the picture). Sensing a sympathetic soul, Pat suggests to Lilian that they all go to see Peggy and torture her until she sees reason. Lilian is lukewarm, however, saying "it's not our place to complain".

Brian is next on Pat's list, when she asks him if he has reservations. Brian replies that it seems logical to him, to which pat says "Leapfrogging Tony is painful; it implies she doesn't trust him – he's hurt." Brian points out that all the other grandchildren have been excluded and "It's Peggy's money – she can do what she likes." Pat says she was looking for support and that Peggy's making a mistake, adding "I'll just have to tell her myself."

Let's pause here. Peggy has three children, Tony, Jennifer and Lilian. All have told Pat that it's none of their business, but she (who isn't a blood relative) thinks she knows better. Please, will someone tattoo "Is this really any of my business?" back to front on Pat's forehead and give her a mirror so that she might stop and think before leaping in with both feet every time? She's already pissed Helen off big time and now she seems set on alienating the entire Archer clan.

And what of Tom and Helen in all this? Helen is very grateful, although I wonder if, when Peggy finds out about Rob and the affair, she might change her will. As for Tom, he is convinced that Peggy has done the right thing and can be found tacking almost-invisible black threads across the top of the stairs at The Lodge and leaving the gas taps turned on, while saying to Peggy how romantic candlelight is.

What else happened last week? Susan and Neil are off to St. Lucia, lucky them and at least they have got rid of Holly, as Will suggested that the puppy should live with him and Nic, for George's sake. Ed and Emma aren't happy, but reluctantly agree. George demonstrates a frightening level of single-mindedness by obsessing about seeing Holly, to the extent that he is in floods of tears at school and keeps going on about going to see the damn dog. Someone else who is not doing handsprings at Holly's re-homing is Nic, who tells Will "The last thing we need is an incontinent puppy".

You have to wonder about Ed sometimes – he spent a considerable time repairing his work boots with gaffer tape, as they are leaking and he has wet socks. For heaven's sake! His mother-in-law has just given Emma £500 to spend and, when Emma suggests buying a new pair of boots, Ed says "we should spend it on the kids". Why? George is being a right pain and Keira's not that old yet – go on; splash out on a pair of boots, they're not that expensive. Besides, gaffer tape is bloody dear, not to mention getting earache from Emma, who keeps whining about the mess on the kitchen floor.

To conclude this week, it might be possible that Jazzer will turn homosexual, as he was helping Neil out (mostly by eating his toasted cheese, it must be said) when Susan, who didn't know Jazzer was visiting, came into the kitchen, modelling her newly-bought beachwear. It was hard to say who was the most shocked. Whatever, I just hope that the inhabitants of St. Lucia are ready for this and that they know what they're letting themselves in for.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Witch Hazel

Annette Badland (Hazel Woolley)

From nowhere, Jack Woolley's daughter Hazel has moved effortlessly into first place in the 'person who you'd most like to give a good kicking to' category. What with her crocodile tears at Jack's funeral, her fleeting appearance at the wake before announcing that she has to leave (cue sound of cheering in the background) and her telling Peggy to be at the solicitor's in a couple of days time or else, the woman is a real charmer.

At the solicitor's, Hazel gets annoyed when Peggy and Toby (obviously old friends) are chatting about the family and Jack's funeral. "We all know what we're here for – let's get on with it" says Hazel and, when Toby begins by saying how complicated Jack's affairs are, Hazel cuts in with "Just tell us who gets what." Come on Hazel, don't beat about the bush – say what you mean.

Just when you hoped that Toby was going to say "Peggy gets the lot and you get nothing" we learned that Peggy gets the Lodge and some minority shares in his businesses and Hazel gets the rest. Toby tells her that she's going to be quite a wealthy woman, but 'quite' isn't enough for witch Hazel and she demands to know where the rest of Jack's estate is – where are the offshore accounts, the property abroad? She also accuses Toby of mismanaging Jack's affairs and takes her leave, telling Peggy in passing that, as Executor, Peggy should pull her finger out. But Hazel hasn't gone straight home – she's in the village "doing research". This consists of checking out Jack's property and things don't look good for the village community shop when Hazel says to Susan "Daddy let you rent this shop for practically nothing."  Changes will be on the way, I suspect.

Now I know that parents never stop worrying about their children, but someone should take Pat to one side and wrap copious amounts of gaffer tape round her gob before she alienates Helen totally. Early on in the week, Pat is quizzing Kirsty about Rob and the penny has dropped that Helen never really made the necklace that Pat likes so much and that it was to cover up the affair with Rob. "I'm right, aren't I?" Pat demands. Kirsty suggests that she talks to Helen about it.

Sadly, when Helen and her parents do talk, they are so aggressive towards Rob that it ends in an argument. Helen tells her mother that Rob isn't the scheming adulterer that Pat paints him and to cut him some slack. When Helen has left, Tony and Pat talk together and it seems that common sense might be prevailing when Tony says: "Maybe it's good for her to have a man in her life". Pat's having none of this namby-pamby attitude and spits back "It's not a man, it's Rob."

Pat's seemingly relentless urge to drive her daughter away continues when they talk later in the week – Pat hears Henry say something about there being biscuits "at Daddy's house" and she realises he means Rob's cottage. When Helen and Henry return, Pat wades in with all guns blazing and gob taking precedence over brain as she accuses Helen of not thinking about Henry and "Rob's not his father – suppose Rob disappears again?" Helen finally snaps and says that here she is, taking a big step in her life and it would have been nice to have had some support from her parents, ending with "What kind of mother are you?" My list of adjectives currently runs to three pages, but I'm sure you can formulate your own.

What Pat needs is for someone to sit her down and tell her to back off (this is after the application of gaffer tape) and, on Friday at the Wassail ceremony, the chance falls to Rob as he and Pat meet accidentally at the mulled cider tent. He tells Pat that Helen was very upset after the talk with Pat ("So was I" protests Pat) and "Can't we all pull together for her sake?" Pat says that Helen is very fragile and is surprised when Rob says he knows all about Greg's suicide and Helen's anorexia. Pat ends the conversation by telling Rob "If I find you've done anything to jeopardise Helen's health or happiness, believe me, you'll have me to answer to." Does this mean that a truce has been declared? Will Pat be able to bite her tongue and mind her own business? No, I don't think so either.

Puppy Holly went from zero to hero when she distributed the contents of a bin bag around the house. But wait! Susan spots an old lottery ticket and has won £4,500! Neil counsels not telling Tracy or Idiot Gary, or they'll have the lot. Susan is full of ideas for her dream holiday, but she does give Emma £500 to spend – perhaps they can get George some psychiatric help as he is now convinced that Ed is trying to poison Holly, having seen poisoned bait for rats lying around the farm. A short course of ECT and he'll be normal again – well, as normal as any child of Will can be.

After Jack's funeral, Kenton walks Jill back to Glebe Cottage. They hear a noise and realise that it was someone going out the back door. Sure enough, Jill has been burgled. Next day David arrives with PC Burns, who is very supportive. David says he can stay if Jill wants, but she tells him to go and, when he does, she bolts the door with a sigh worthy of Jamie in his pre-lumberjack days. Emma and Ed were talking about the burglary and she wonders if it could be Darrell, but Ed says he has an alibi, as he was at the stables, working on the conversion of the van into his des res. So who can the felon be? Speaking personally, I reckon that the police are even now beating a path to Clive Horrobin's door, notebook and handcuffs in hand.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I Thought I'd Gone Deaf…

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

I refer, of course, to the sublime moment when Helen told Pat about her plans to move in with Rob and Pat was – sadly only momentarily – struck speechless. It happened because Pat just couldn't stop herself interfering, asking unsubtle questions and dropping heavy hints about 'your bit of news.' She agreed when Tony told her to give it a rest, but she just couldn't stop herself. Eventually, Helen lost patience (about two days later than me) and spelled out her news in brutally blunt terms. Pat's subsequent silence was most welcome. Pity the shock didn't strike her dumb.

Of course, once the news was out, we had days of hand-wringing and "what is she playing at?" with Pat wandering all over the place like a lost soul. She even berated Tony for thinking about vegetables at such a time. Oh yes, that will be a great help – stop all the work on the farm, why don't you? And board up the dairy while you're at it. It's the bloody Rich scenario all over again.

Friday was Pat's birthday (61, but you didn't hear it from me) and Helen has volunteered to do the cooking. She also managed to get Pat to agree to have Rob at the meal and a strained evening ensues, with Kirsty and Tom making up the numbers. The conversation flows like treacle and, when clearing away the dishes, Rob admits to Helen that things don't seem to be going too well. Really, he should think himself lucky that he hasn't got a carving knife sticking out of his back, or been fed toadstools.

Rob leaves and Helen tells her mother that all her prejudices came out that evening and, before going to bed, she tells her "I've never been happier." Pat tells Tony: "It's hopeless – she's besotted with him." Well spotted Pat, the clue was in the phrase 'I've never been happier' wasn't it? A few words of advice Pat – mind your own bloody business and let Helen live her own life. I really hope that Rob doesn't do the dirty on Helen, as I couldn't bear the weeks of the inevitable 'I told you so' that would surely follow.

The early New Year prize for breathtaking self-delusion goes to Susan Carter. She has really got the blues badly and her depression is deepened by worries about the future of the shop, now Jack Woolley is dead. I mean, God alone knows that the woman could whinge and moan for Great Britain on a normal day, but her recent performance makes you wonder where you put the extra-large tub of aspirins or whether a pyjama cord could support your weight.

"When did you last surprise me?" she demands of husband Neil. If I were him, I'd have taken her down to the Am and thrown her in, yelling "Surprise!" Instead he says "It had better be the Taj Mahal then." And this is where the self-delusion comes in, as Susan immediately thinks he is going to whisk her off to India. How long have they been married? This is Neil we're talking about – I'm not sure that he even has a passport. It turns out that he was talking about the local curry house, which came as a surprise to nobody, except Susan, it seems.

Despite this crushing disappointment, she's at it again later in the week, when Emma finds her looking at Neil's laptop and she sees that he has been viewing sites about Brazil, notably about the Carnival in Rio and she is convinced that he has a surprise planned for Easter. Neil comes back from a Parish Council meeting and tells Susan that the plan for Lent and Easter this year is to perform Passion Plays (please, God, don't let Lynda get involved) and Ambridge has been allocated Good Friday. When he says that he might go for a place in the cast, Susan comes over all girlish and coy and says "You know you've got something better lined up, Neil – Brazil!" A mystified Neil tells her that he was checking details of the World Cup for Chris and Alice and, once again, Susan's illusions are shattered. You could well be in the spare room for a while Neil.

Just to add to Susan's woes, puppy Holly continues her campaign of destruction and disruption. George wants to take her outside to play and Ed agrees. He throws the ball and it lands in the pond, where Holly leaps in to get it. Ed rescues the dog, but George is convinced that he did it on purpose and that he hates Holly. So convinced is he that he tells Emma he wants to take Holly when he goes to Will's at the weekend. Ed is worried that he won't get over it and says that Will has been winding George up, portraying Ed as someone who has a problem with dogs. Let's think; this is a man who had plastered warning signs to dog owners all over the farm, a man who foams at the mouth whenever he sees a dog running loose and, not least, a man who shot his son's puppy – I don't think Will has had to work too hard on Ed's image, do you?

My heart soared when Lynda hinted to Robert that, what with Leonie's baby and work, she might not even do a show next year. Yes! Result! Crack open the bubbly and ring those church bells! Then it all goes pear-shaped when Lynda reads the review of her latest extravaganza in The Echo. The reviewer has committed the cardinal sin of calling it 'a panto' and obviously missed the subtle nuances of the production. He also hints that perhaps Lynda is past her best. An incensed Lynda tells Robert that "if he thinks I'm finished, I'll show him this year!" No!!! That noise you can hear is me weeping softly in the background. Does anyone know how you can get a champagne cork back in the bottle?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Getting Back Together

Anna Piper (Rosa Makepeace)

New Year's Eve was a time of reconciliation all round at The Bull – Rosa starts talking to her Dad again and Rob and Helen saw the New Year in with a bang. Well, with several bangs actually, as Rob was looking tired on the New Year's Day shoot. Jennifer tells him that she's not surprised "because you've been hard at it." Never said a truer word Jen.

But first of all Rosa and Darrell's story. Originally the plan was to get Rosa to come to Keeper's, where she would find Darrell. He (unaware of the cunning plan) wasn't keen and wanted to stay in his shed. Then it all changed and Eddie decided they should go down to the pub, where he knew Rosa would be. Darrell is even less keen, but Eddie gets him in a headlock and marches him to The Bull.

While there, he spots Rosa in another bar and Eddie urges him to make contact. He wishes her 'Happy New Year' and gets set to leave. "Don't go" says Rosa, and they hug. Later on, Rosa tells Tom and Kirsty that she's glad her and her Dad are talking again. So what has all the drama and aggravation of the past few weeks been about, not to mention the waste of petrol?

Just before midnight, Helen slips out and meets Rob. They kiss and he calls himself all kinds of names for being an idiot and treating her so badly. "Come back to mine – come back to me Helen" he pants and she does. Game back on.

Taking the 'Getting back together' theme to new heights of tenuousness, Jill is reunited with her car when she decides to drive the short distance to Peggy's. Bad move! On the way she nearly mows down Eddie, Joe and Bartleby, prompting an incensed Eddie to call at Brookfield and demand that they stop Jill driving before there's a serious accident.

Jill is distraught and being fed tea and comfort from Peggy. Practical as ever, Peggy reminds her that "a simple operation could give you back your vision." "I should be comforting you" wails Jill.

And the reason Jill should be offering solace to Peggy is that Jack Woolley slipped peacefully away during Wednesday night. Peggy had spent much of the day with him (it was the day of their 23rd Wedding Anniversary) giving us a running commentary on their wedding, as they (or, rather, she – Jack's memory has been long gone) reminisced about the day. Not terrific radio, but quite touching. Actually, Peggy's had quite a hard life; her first husband (also Jack) was a complete lush and when they bought the pub, which, in hindsight, perhaps wasn't the best move to make, she ended up running it virtually single-handed. Then Jack died and Jack Woolley (who was a long-time admirer of Peggy) came back on the scene. They married and were happy until Dementia began to take its toll and Jack had to move into The Laurels nursing home.

Peggy tells Jill that she hopes she made Jack happy and she feels so lucky to have been given that second chance. "It's the happy memories that see you through" says Jill. "I lost Jack a long time ago" Peggy replies. Jill asks if she should stay, but Peggy tells her to go (Kenton picks her up). As they leave, Peggy tells her cats that, although people mean well, it makes it difficult to get time on her own, which is what she really wants. The last sound of the week was Peggy playing a scratchy version of 'Love is the sweetest thing' and saying "Goodbye Jack, my love".

Jack's demise threw a spanner in the works of Helen and Rob's plans to come clean to the family. Thursday is Henry's birthday and Pat, Helen and Tom are in the kitchen, making a dinosaur-shaped cake. The plan was for Helen to tell the family that she, Rob and Henry are going to live together and then Rob was due to arrive, offering moral support. It started off OK, with Helen saying "I've got something to tell you. Not now, after the party." Pat proves once again that she cannot understand long words like 'after' when she pipes up "can't you tell us now?" The party ends and Pat wants to know what the news is. Tony's not there and, before he can make an appearance, Lilian and Peggy turn up with news of Jack's death. Helen is anxious to get hold of Rob and put him off, but Pat tells her to go and sit with her Gran. Rob turns up, expecting to be castigated and possibly castrated, when Helen butts in with the sad news. Fortunately, Rob has brought a present for Henry (a toy farm set and not a 500 stall milking parlour in sight) and he tactfully leaves. Later he and Helen agree that their box of matches has been temporarily urinated upon and their news will have to wait till after the funeral.

Finally, we had a glimpse (sadly) of things to come with Leonie's baby when it arrives. Lilian was in depression at the thought of becoming a Grandmother and has to be persuaded by Matt that further plastic surgery isn't necessary. Meanwhile, when Lilian tells Lynda that she's nipping out for a fag, Lynda says that she hopes she won't smoke near the baby, nor near Leonie during pregnancy. Lynda then says that she learned a lot when Flat Leaf Parsley and Oscar were staying with them. "At least Robert and I know our way round a breast pump" Lynda tells Lilian, smugly. I suppose we all need a hobby.