Sunday, 25 May 2014

Every Silver Lining Has Its Cloud…

Tom Graham (Tom Archer)

First the silver lining - Tom is still awol and Tony scales new heights of anger and invective, reaching a crescendo when the letter arrives from the organic people, suspending the organic status of the pigs. The rest of the farm and the shop have escaped, but that does little to mollify Tony or improve his mood.

Actually, we did hear from Tom late on Tuesday, when he rang Rob for some advice, saying that he has some difficult choices to make and swearing Rob to secrecy about the call. Tom shows he’s got his finger on the pulse when he says “I must be Ambridge’s most hated person.” Tactfully, Rob doesn’t answer.

I would be surprised if Tony knew the meaning of the word ‘Schadenfreude’ but he demonstrated it in spades when he and Pat next saw Peggy; hardly had she got across the threshold when he tells her about the loss of organic status for the pigs, adding almost gleefully “It’s not my fault this time Mum - it’s Tom’s”. If Tony is expecting his mother to tear her hair and rend her garments, or to call in the solicitor to change her Will, he is in for a disappointment. In fact, Peggy had already been told by Rob and she suggests to Tony that, far from being a disaster, this could be an opportunity. You could hear the ‘clonk’ of Tony’s jaw hitting the floor as a strangled, incredulous “What?” escaped from his lips.

Peggy goes even further, questioning whether there is any point in retaining the organic status of Bridge Farm. Pat takes Peggy home (presumably before Tony does her physical violence) and Helen and Rob turn up. Frothing slightly at the mouth, Tony tells them what Peggy said. Rob sinks even lower in Tony’s estimation when he too says that it could be an opportunity and Tony asks Helen to tell him that he (Tony) is right and going non-organic would be selling out. Helen offers her support, but it was half-hearted and unconvincing.

But where is the silver lining, I hear you scream? That came on Friday, when Tom returned home and got both barrels from Tony. Every time Tom said anything, Tony leapt in with another accusation, to the point where Pat more or less kept telling him to shut up. Tom drops his bombshell - he has decided he cannot stay in Ambridge, so he is going to sell his Ready Meals business and move away. Where to? Hollerton? Loxley Barrett? Er, not quite, as he has applied for a job in Ontario and has only come back to pack a few things because his flight is booked for tomorrow.

And now to the cloud, or rather, clouds. First of all we had Lynda and Lilian spending a day at the Chelsea Flower Show (good choice, given Lynda’s hay fever) and they had spent the previous day with Leonie and James. Lilian is a bit down, wondering what sort of Dad James will make. Lynda reassures her that he’ll be a wonderful Dad. Why? The man is a complete dork, so does fatherhood give you a personality upgrade? As it is, the episode was just a chilling reminder that the birth is imminent.

However, this cloud was a mere wisp compared to what we were subjected to later. The scriptwriters demonstrated new depths of cruelty as, having already been prepared for the fact that the Midnight Walkers were defunct, we had Jolene reminiscing over her old tapes of previous performances and Fallon said that she had been in touch with Wayne and why didn’t Jolene get in touch with him and they could perform as a duo? Fallon, you have gone down seriously in my estimation. Jolene is worried that Kenton might not want his wife performing with her ex-husband, but when she broaches the subject, the Muppet not only agrees, but suggests that they get a whole new band together. Does the loss of Tom make up for  the threatened return of Wayne? The jury is out.

The character of Charlie becomes ever more complex, as he has a profound conversation with Adam, over a pint bought to recognise Adam’s sterling work on the maize, saying that there are six billion people in the world who need feeding and “I wake up, thinking, ‘yes, this is what I want to do - it really matters’. “ Presumably the (no doubt) generous remuneration helps him get out of bed too. With Charlie spending more time with Adam, do you reckon Charlie is gay? Last year Adam had a one-night stand with Pawel, one of the fruit pickers - perhaps Charlie is looking for some boss on employee action.

Will somebody please take Jennifer’s old kitchen cabinets off her hands? Clarrie is the latest to reject Jen’s cast-offs. On the subject of the kitchen, if it isn’t finished soon, then I reckon Jennifer will be found under the floor as Brian is becoming increasingly pissed off with the noise and disruption.

Finally, going back to Tom, cast your mind back to when Rob first appeared in the village; he had returned from managing a large dairy business in Canada. Tom rang him for some unspecified advice and, a few days later, he’s off for an interview in Canada. Coincidence? I think not. If Pat ever finds out Rob’s part in this and learns that Rob told Peggy about the pigs, I suspect his life expectancy will reduce dramatically. But how about this for a story - Tom doesn’t get the job in Canada, but Charlie, who has been having a hard time with Rob, realises that Tom is the man to run Berrow Farm and sacks Rob. Thus Tom would move from organic pig farmer to head of the hated mega dairy and would replace Helen’s lover in his job - now that would make family meals at Bridge Farm really interesting. Or even more of a silver lining scenario - Tom gets the job in Canada and takes Will along as his assistant; life just doesn’t get better than that.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Not What I’d Call Lucky

Heather Bell (Clarrie Grundy)

Last week saw Clarrie’s 60th birthday party and everyone seemed to turn up - even Tony, who came as John Travolta, although Joe (Clint Eastwood) didn’t recognise who he was supposed to be. David was Marc Bolan, complete with glitter, and a good time was had by all, especially Clarrie. Two days earlier, at birthday meal, Clarrie was feeling despondent when she looked back on her life. Or maybe it was because she was having to watch Eddie eat.

Eddie wanted his wife to know how special she was and began crooning ‘She’ by Charles Aznavour. Clarrie was overcome and I must say that it affected me somewhat too, but fortunately we didn’t hear the whole song. Eddie asked Clarrie whether, when she was younger, if she’d been able to see the future, would she have been disappointed? Clarrie’s response was “No, I must be the luckiest woman in the whole wide world.” Let’s stop and think here - Clarrie is married to Eddie, who isn’t what you’d describe as a new man, and, of her two sons, Ed is living with mega-whinger Emma and Will is someone who you’d never get tired of kicking. And this makes her the luckiest woman in the world? Other women of the world, I weep for you.

The person who featured most strongly in last week’s episode was Tom, who didn’t even appear. We learned later in the week that he was in Wales and, wherever he was, his ears must have been burning as people heaped abuse on him. Most of the invective came from Pat and Tony, who are working all the hours God sends to keep all the plates spinning. Tony has been telling sausage customers that Tom is away on honeymoon and will be back soon. To make matters worse, at the end of the week, Bridge Farm is being inspected by the Organic Society (or similar) and Pat and Tony (and Helen, with Ambridge Organics) are frantically trying to tie up loose ends and track down paperwork. Tony has been ringing Tom, with no luck, and Pat tells him to stop, as he’s putting pressure on Tom. “What about the pressure on us?” Tony screams.

As it turns out, the Inspector (Lindsey) finds an open non-organic feed bag. Shock, horror! Pat tells her the whole story about Tom, but if she’s hoping for sympathy, she’s in for a disappointment, as Lindsey says she will have to recommend cessation of organic status for the pig operation. As she leaves, Tony and Pat wonder whether the whole farm will lose its organic status. Tony rants “In Lindsey’s eyes, we can’t be trusted now - what the hell was he thinking, Pat?” If I were Tom, I wouldn’t bother coming home just yet.

Going back to Clarrie’s party, Maurice was telling Tony that what Tom should have done was to go through with the marriage and then give up on it after a few days or weeks. Somehow I don’t think that a directorship is being kept open for Maurice at Relate.

Kirsty is back from honeymoon and she goes to see Helen at Ambridge Organics. Rather optimistically, Helen tells her to take as much time as she likes before coming back to work and Kirsty tells her in no uncertain terms that she’s only come back for her back wages and to collect a few things. “I’ll never come back here again” says Kirsty, as she storms out.

Next day sees Kirsty burning her bridges - literally, as she and Alice go to the house that Kirsty shared with Tom and cleans it out of everything that reminds Kirsty of their time together. Kirsty tells Alice to sell the wedding dresses online and she burns a stack of old photos and some clothes, as well as deleting all photos and Tom’s contact details from her phone. The smoke from the conflagration attracts Jill who, when she realises what’s happening, tells Kirsty how sorry she is. Kirsty, who has found the obliteration of her previous life a cathartic experience, tells her not to be, as Kirsty isn’t feeling sorry, adding: “I’ve finished with Ambridge - I’m leaving here and never coming back.” Why can’t Tom take that attitude?

Charlie Thomas continues to make his presence felt - he told Rob off for being late and wasn’t impressed when Rob said it was because he had to take Henry to playschool. Charlie says that yields are down and he notices that costs have been increasing. “Perhaps it’s time to start upping your game, Rob” Charlie says, ominously. Rob’s version of the meeting, as told to Helen, was that he told Charlie in no uncertain terms that family comes first. What a fibber!

Charlie also joins Adam on the tractor and tells him that he’s doing a good job. They talk and it turns out that Charlie is interested in cricket, which surprises Adam. Charlie rather cryptically remarks that there’s a lot that he (Adam) doesn’t know about him (Charlie). Adam tells him about the single wicket competition, but Charlie declines the chance to take part. Later on, talking to Brian, Adam remarks that at least Charlie is hands-on, rather than being chained to a desk. “You’ve changed your tune” says a surprised Brian.

There was some good news as we learned that it looks like the Midnight Walkers won’t be reforming - the drummer has joined a Danish Thrash Metal band and the rhythm guitarist has been arrested for smuggling geckos.

We had riveting radio when Jennifer was showing Brian a colour swatch of off-white colours, but my favourite moment was when Roy, who has persuaded Elizabeth to attend a music festival, tells her that it involves two days of camping. The contempt in Lizzie’s voice when she said “No thanks” couldn’t have been bettered; two days under canvas with the hired help - what was the man thinking of?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Insensitivity Rules O.K.

Michael Lumsden (Alistair Lloyd)

First of all, apologies for the lateness of this week’s blog, as I have been on holiday. On that note, I promised to say ‘hello’ to Jeff - an Archers fan who was on our dinner table. Hello Jeff; hope you like the blog and thank you for the stories you told.

So what happened last week? There seemed to me to be an underlying current of insensitivity running through the week’s stories, as we will see. First of all Alistair and Shula drove Dan to Sandhurst and they were put in a room to wait for him to emerge after the lobotomy or whatever, on which were displayed wall to wall the names of soldiers killed in action, which did nothing to allay Shula’s fears. She was even less happy when he appeared and told them that he had been put in the ’Somme’ company. I suppose it could have been worse; it could have been the ’Suicide Squad’ or ’One-way Mission’ platoon. On the way home, Alistair berates Shula for texting her son a mere two hours after saying goodbye to him, saying “You’ve got to let go”, whereupon she bursts into tears. Nice one Alistair.

There was joy unconfined and dancing on the Green as people celebrated the fact that Tom had gone missing - actually, to be truthful, it was the May Day celebrations, but Tom’s absence was the major story of the week and I for one can live with that for a few months more yet. Unlike Pat, who is convinced that Tom is laying in a ditch somewhere and she tells PC Burns that she’d like to see him.

Pat also forces Roy to meet her at Tom’s cottage (Roy has the keys), where she searches frantically for a clue to her son’s whereabouts. She finds his laptop and is disappointed when Roy doesn’t know Tom’s password. Come on woman; a moment’s thought would make it obvious that it’s either ‘Ready Meals’ or ‘Sausages’.

As the week progresses, so Pat gets more and more desperate and despondent. Then Tony rushes in, saying “Quick! Come and look!” Has Tom returned? Has he been living with his pigs? No - Tony’s news is that one of his cows has successfully calved and, while Tony bangs on about “New life at Bridge Farm again”, Pat can’t help thinking of her son in a ditch, or at the bottom of a cliff somewhere.

Mr Sensitivity Tony does it again later on - Pat is talking to Helen when Tony bursts in “Fantastic news!” he yells. What - has Tom returned? Er, not exactly - the great news is that the cow that died a few weeks ago didn’t have TB. While this is presumably little consolation to the deceased bovine, it does mean that the movement restrictions on the farm will be lifted. A triumphant Tony says that he is ‘completely vindicated’ and when Tom returns, he’ll tell him in no uncertain terms how wrong he was. Hopefully he’ll let him get his coat off first and, if Pat’s worst fears were to be realised and Tom never returned, then Tony would presumably perform an “I told you so” jig on his son’s grave. “Things are going right for us at last” Tony crows, until his wife’s comment “Not everything” reminds him that he still has a son who has been awol for a week.

Pat then has to put up with more insensitivity from Jennifer, who has had her kitchen cupboards removed and, with work now started on her new, super-duper kitchen (well, a wall has been knocked down and the floor broken up with a pneumatic drill), Jen tells Pat that the last few days have been ‘a nightmare’ and, by the way, would Pat like her old kitchen fittings? With commendable restraint, Pat points out that she has other things on her mind and Jen is distraught when she realises her faux pas. In an attempt to get back in favour, Jennifer talks about how youngsters can be a trial and, when an adolescent Kate disappeared for a few days, Jen and Brian were called down to Cornwall, to identify a body that had been found on the beach. It turned out not to be Kate, but this story does nothing to ease Pat’s troubled mind. Rest assured - Tom does get in touch with Pat and says he needs more time. Tony sensitively (not) says: “Is the idiot boy going to let his business go down the tubes on top of everything else?”

At Home Farm, Adam hasn’t slept for something like six weeks and he is helped out in his tilth preparation by David, who puts in some time on the tractor. Despite a punctured tyre, the cultivation is completed and Charlie Thomas turns up unannounced. Using his Genghis Khan-type man management skills to the full, he announces that the tilth isn’t fine enough and the field will need going over again. Even better, he goes to Adam’s cottage and wakes him up to tell him so. I tell you - the man is living on borrowed time.

PC Burns is getting more involved in village life - apart from getting his ear bent by Pat about Tom, he was roped in to present the prizes at the May Day cake competition. Fallon’s banana bread won a prize - no suspicious circumstances, as the winners were selected by Ian - and he gave her a peck on the cheek. “How could you take advantage of me?” Fallon asks indignantly, meanwhile flogging PC Burns the knocked-off plant stand for £25. Lynda asks Fallon what she’s got against PC Burns and she ought to be careful, as she doesn’t think that he’ll be available and on the market for very long.

The Lower Loxley festival (imaginatively christened ‘Loxfest’) looks like a goer and Roy suggests a stage for local talent. He asks Jolene if the Midnight Walkers would like to reform for the gig and she says that they’d all be up for it “Except for Danny, who’s dead” and they had better start rehearsing. I have two comments on this: first of all, does being dead matter that much when it’s Country and Western? And secondly, I never realised that C&W acts actually bothered to rehearse.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Family Values

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

When you are down, feeling that the whole world is against you, then that’s when you need the support of your closest relatives. Might I suggest that, if you are in such a situation, you fall to your knees and thank God that your father is not Tony Archer as, not only would you not get support, but you’d get a tirade of abuse, pointing out how it is all manifestly your fault. Of course, you could argue that it is all Tom’s fault, but he probably doesn’t need to hear that right now.

I thought that, if Rob did the dirty on Helen, then the chorus of ‘we told you so’ from Pat would be overwhelming, but that pales into insignificance when compared to the job Tony did on Tom.

Before we go any further, let me say that this week’s blog is being written on Thursday evening, as it’s holiday time (I’m actually in Costa Rica with Kirsty, but that’s our secret) and so if anything momentous happens on Friday, I just hope that Neil will add a paragraph. Also, the following week’s blog will be late, but please bear with me.

Let’s get Tom’s story out of the way. He has become a hermit and tells his mum not to visit when she phones. Peggy, however, is made of sterner stuff and turns up at the door. I don’t think she actually kicks it in, but Tom lets her in. The place is a mess (that Kirsty going off to Costa Rica - has she no consideration?) but at least Tom has been eating - he says Roy has been practically force feeding him. I hope they were Ready Meals.

Peggy tells Tom that he needs his family. “After what Dad said?” Tom asks and Peggy replies “Your dad has a trick of saying things that hit home.” This is a reference to earlier in the week, when Tony decides to go and see Peggy and tell her that the Tom situation is partly down to her, because she left him her money and his future is all mapped out etc. Attaboy Tony! That’s the way to get yourself back in the Will (not).

Later on in the week, Pat takes a leaf out of Peggy’s book and doorsteps Tom. They talk and she takes him back to Bridge Farm. While Tom is in the kitchen, making tea, Pat asks Tony to go and have a talk with his son, telling him how Tom has felt that he was always a replacement for John. She also says how thin he’s looking. What? It’s only a week since the non-wedding and what about all the force feeding by Roy? Good old Tony goes in, shooting straight from the lip, accusing Tom of giving his mother even more to worry about and he’s never heard such a load of self-serving drivel and how dare he try to blame him and Pat? He also implies that Tom isn’t fit to lace John’s boots and, when Tom protests that John was no angel in dumping Hayley, Tony replies that he didn’t do it at the altar in front of 150 people. Tom mentions Sharon, and Tony as good as calls her a slag - the love affair with Rich doesn’t seem to have lasted very long, does it? Pat comes in - and, let’s be honest, she really shouldn’t have left Tony alone with Tom - and asks brightly “Is that tea made?” just in time to hear Tom saying “I won’t be staying” and leaving. “What the hell is going on?” she asks. Over to you, Tony. Actually, when you think about it, it’s no mean feat to alienate your son, your mother and your wife all in a couple of days. Presumably he will get on Helen’s nerves on Friday - you’ll have to let me know.

So, what else has been happening? Eddie is worries that he cannot think of anything to do for Clarrie’s 60th (12th May - all presents gratefully received and probably opened by Joe) and wonders how he can possibly top last year’s extravaganza, when they brought the seaside to Ambridge. How about buying her a card, or doing the washing up for a week? On second thoughts, the shock would probably kill her.

He asks Susan and Emma for ideas and, when they can’t think of anything, he says that he’ll ask Nic. Quick as a flash, Emma says “No need - we’ll think of something” and the idea that they come up with is a 1970s-themed party. Great idea for someone born in 1954, although Eddie reveals that Clarrie was really into glam rock “Before I converted her to Country and Western”. In my book, that’s another reason to poison his tea.

We had Shula and Daniel going shopping for his Sandhurst supplies and her worry seems to have changed from him getting himself blown up to whether the ironing board will be high enough for him. It’s tough in today’s army. Both Shula and, later on, Jennifer, remark on how much he looks like his late father Mark and I reckon there’ll be tears when he goes off to Sandhurst.

Meanwhile, Adam is working 25 hours a day, as Brian is bed-ridden with sciatica and Geoff doesn’t fancy 12-hour shifts. Charlie comes within an ace of death when he berates Adam for not getting the drilling done and I feel an altercation coming on.

Finally we have the Aga saga of Jennifer’s new kitchen. It appears that the work cannot be done until the builders have stripped the walls, or demolished the house, or something and Jennifer is stuck with her old one, She offered her existing units to Susan, who was mightily offended, saying “We don’t need your cast-offs.” Take that!