Friday, 31 October 2014

Alton Towers It Isn’t

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

Let’s start with one of the minor stories of last week - Eddie’s idea for a turkey marketing extravaganza to boost sales, which was a plan worthy of one of the Rev. Alan Franks’s more off-the-wall ideas to mark Lent. It began with Eddie asking William if he had any souvenirs at home from his trip to Mexico, resulting in Eddie bringing home a sombrero and other tat.

Clarrie wants to know what’s going on and Eddie reveals his master plan - a Christmas interactive turkey experience, charting the history of the bird, which originated in Mexico, hence the sombrero. We then move on to Rome, where they used chickens to tell the future, and Eddie has a suitably mystic-looking turkey lined up for people to ask questions. Then we have the piece de resistance; Eddie is going to pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving. He tells Joe and Clarrie that he can already see the photo in the Echo of him and a plump turkey in front of the Stars and Stripes. Presumably with the caption ‘do not on any account approach this man’.

The idea is to draw the massed throngs through the experience, into the turkey shed and hopefully flog the punters some holly and mistletoe as well as a festive bird. Eddie pours scorn on Clarrie’s objections, saying “Inform, educate and entertain - who won’t stump up for that?” Well, me for starters. I suspect Carol Tregorran might be a bit doubtful too; when Joe explains the whole experience to her while introducing her to the taste of the Grundy’s cider, her response is a mystified “I don’t know what to say.”

So much for the light relief. It was a busy week for Ed too - it began well with brother William offering him the job of beater at the forthcoming shoot (at father Eddie’s suggestion). It was both offered and accepted with bad grace on the two brothers’ parts and it is a measure of how desperate Will must be for the shoot to succeed (it was one of Charlie Thomas’s ideas) to offer his brother a job. Normally he’d rather rip his own arms off, but needs must.

Ed later moves into full moaning mode, telling Jazzer that he can’t stand living at Ambridge View much longer (this is after yet another of Susan’s lectures about clearing things up). While in mournful mood, Ed also says how the milk round has lost another four customers and what’s the point of it all? Jazzer suggests a good old session at the pub and they decide to go on Friday.

As they enter the pub, they spot Roy, and Jazzer, subtle as ever, calls him “The Lothario of Lower Loxley.” This is an improvement on a comment he made earlier in the week, when he said “Getting your leg over with the boss is a canny move.” Perhaps Ed should take note and start stalking Mike. Both Ed and Roy are depressed (“It’s like drinking with a couple of Dementors” - Jazzer) and the drink flows freely. Ed stumbles home, totally shot away, only to find Susan waiting up for him. He says that she’s always so angry and they both need to lighten up a little and how about a hug? Susan thinks not and Ed finally upchucks all over the sofa, with Sue calling him “A disgusting boy”. There’ll be words tomorrow, Ed, I reckon.

While Ed and Jazzer were enjoying their last couple of pints in the 10 minutes before closing time, a totally inebriated Roy decides to walk to Lower Loxley to see Elizabeth and stands outside, yelling at her to wake up and talk to him. He begs to be allowed in for a talk and Elizabeth, afraid that the kids will be woken up by his drunken bellowing, lets him in. Roy breaks down and says that he couldn’t go home, as there are too many reminders of what he has done. Lizzie tells him: “We’ve got to get through this - things will get better for both of us.” Roy misunderstands and reaches for her, only to be rebuffed, with Lizzie saying she’ll make him a coffee and then call him a cab to go home. At least he didn’t vomit over the tapestries or wee in a Ming vase.

News of Lizzie and Roy’s fling is spreading - David and Rooooth find out and Peggy (who learned it from Carol) suggests that Jill should know and tells her. Jill goes to see Lizzie, and is angry at first, but then, after Liz has broken down and wept, tells her she is her ‘brave, beautiful daughter’, without adding ‘even if you are a bit of a slapper.’ Jill realises what Susan’s enigmatic questions have been hinting at and she makes a point of going to see her in the shop. Susan says “Things must be hard for Elizabeth, as she and Roy were very close.” Jill replies that “It isn’t really anybody else’s business and if you hear any gossip, I hope you’ll say the same.” She adds that Liz has had a difficult couple of years and has always tried her best and “We should always be supportive of people who need our help, shouldn’t we Susan?” A flustered Susan agrees, so Jill doesn’t have to add “Don’t forget I know where you live, you gossiping witch.”

Will Brookfield be sold? Brian tells David he’s finding it hard to get his head round the possibility and a lot of people would miss him (no mention of Rooooth). Joe Grundy makes a special trip to tell David what a good bloke he is and how Brookfield’s loss would be a tragedy for Ambridge. David’s attitude is that, if Route B is adopted, selling up would seem to be inevitable, as they couldn’t farm the way they want to. He tells Brian: “At the end of the day I’d rather move Brookfield than see it lose its soul.” Photographs have been taken for the sales brochure and the possible sale moves a step closer - surely it couldn’t really happen, could it?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Forgot About The Family, Did We David?

Tim Bentinck (David Archer)

OK, David and Rooooth have been going through a hard time, what with the potential Route B, falling milk prices and the Heather situation, but you’d think he might have thought that it would have been politic to let his siblings know that they were considering possibly selling up and therefore getting Brookfield Farm valued - especially as said siblings have a financial interest in the farm.

In the end it was Jill who suggested a family conference (one which she elected to be absent from) and their reaction varied from surprise (Liz and Shula) to the mercenary (“When would I see my share?” - Kenton). David and Rooooth go ahead and get Rodways to value the farm and Graham Ryder turns up. Jill cannot bear to be there and she has arranged to take Carol Tregorran to see Peggy.

Graham walks the farm with David and Rooth and he suggests that, in case Route B is adopted, they split the land into two - one parcel either side of the proposed road and sell the farmhouse as a separate lot, along with a few acres. There is much maudlin talk from Dave about how Phil bought these acres from Meadow Farm (later we find out it cost him £1,750 per acre). When pressed, Graham reckons the package could be worth £4.5 million, which depresses Dave, who was hoping for nearer £5 mill. Later on, David depresses Rooooth when she finds him investigating the cost of moving the dairy herd up north. He tells her that it might not be worthwhile staying in dairy and this goes down like a lead balloon with Rooooth, who, as we have explored before in this blog, seems to value her cows above her children (none of who, incidentally seem to have been told about the possible move north). We also have the reaction of Jill, whose reaction to the move varies from ‘yes, I’ll go’ to ‘no, I couldn’t leave Ambridge’ to ‘Shula and Liz have both said I can live with them’ to ‘But what would David say if I didn’t go?’ to ‘If Brookfield were to be sold I don’t know if I could stay.’ That’s that cleared up then.

Let’s move on to the Roy/Hayley/Elizabeth situation. As predicted last week, Phoebe is not best chuffed when she returns home to find that Hayley has left, taking Abbie with her. Calling her father Roy “A lying, cheating, pathetic loser” (come on Phoebe, Don’t mince your words!) she goes off to stay with Grandma Jennifer, who, on being told the whole story, says that she can stay as long as she likes. The following day, Jen and Brian talk about Phoebe’s situation and Jen says that she has experience of just such a betrayal - Brian makes a timely exit.

After the family conference, Elizabeth confides in Shula about her and Roy. Shula is sympathetic and remembers that, when she walked into the shop that morning, Susan was talking to a customer and clammed up when Shula walked in. “If Susan knows, it will be all round the village” Liz says. Liz, love, if Susan knows, it will be on News at 10 before you can blink.

Moving on to the end of the week, Roy turns up at Home Farm to see his daughter and Phoebe says “If Dad wants to talk, it’s fine by me.” A touching reconciliation scene? Not quite as, when Roy turns up and says that he’s done a terrible thing and let everybody down, Phoebe says “Why are you here?” Roy asks her to come home and she replies “You should have thought of that before you started screwing around with your boss - that middle-aged tart.” She also tells him (three times) that she hates him and that she’s not coming home, not now, not ever. Remove the ‘Welcome Home’ sign Roy.

Now we have to explain why Phoebe deserves to be torn apart by wild horses. Last week we had the ecstasy of there being no Christmas extravaganza in Ambridge this year, while this week we had Jennifer and Phoebe in the shop, with Lynda rather unsubtly quizzing Phoebe about why she wasn’t at college. Jen quickly changed the subject - she had noticed that Lynda had put her name down for auditions for the FLOS Ayckbourn production and how had she got on? A disgusted Lynda said that they had offered her the job of prompter and she has decided to direct and star in her own production for Ambridge’s Christmas show.

Phoebe thought this was a great idea, mentioning (among others) Woody Allen as examples. If this goes ahead, I warned the writers last week that my revenge would be terrible - I may have to beat them to death with Phoebe’s corpse. Of course, if this is to be a one-woman show, then presumably Robert Snell would be the only person in the audience. It could also persuade Jill that perhaps she could leave Ambridge after all.

Going back to the David/Rooooth moving north saga, I had a response from a reader who suggested that the Prudhoe Tourist Board might have paid good money for this story line and could this be another Duchy Originals scandal? He, or she goes on: “Incidentally, are Archers allowed to live in a place that can actually be found on any atlas? Ambridge is well known to exist in a parallel universe (where they alone get torrential rain in the driest-ever September, for instance). In fact - can you even get to Northumberland from AmbridgeSpace?” An interesting point - should Mike and Vicky move to Birmingham, will we never hear from them again? And perhaps they could take Will, Fred, Wayne, James, Leonie, Lynda - add your own non-favourites - with them.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

I Thought I Must Be Dreaming…

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

Surely my ears deceived me - had I really heard what I thought? If so, here was proof that prayers can be answered. What caused this mood of elation? It was the conversation between Jill and Lynda, where Lynda bemoaned the fact that only two people (Derek Fletcher and Molly Button) had turned up for her auditions for Rumpelstiltskin.

Jill was elevated to the level of ‘my favourite Archers character’ when she said “Would it be such a terrible thing to have a year off?” and made comparison with leaving a field fallow for a year to rejuvenate it. Lynda seems to be convinced, saying: “That’s it - no Christmas show in Ambridge this year - perhaps never again.” My euphoria soared even higher at these words and I warn the writers now that, should they get some deluded villager to talk Lynda out of her decision and resurrect the Christmas extravaganza, then my revenge will be both swift and terrible.

It was a week of potentially momentous decisions, with David accepting that moving north might be the solution to the problem of what to do with Heather and he and Rooooth look at a couple of farms; one of which was extremely attractive. David told Jill what they were doing and she tentatively agreed that she might have to move with them. However, on Friday at the Harvest Supper, she told Carol that being with friends and family made her realise that she was too old to start again.

It would be unthinkable to have the Archers without David (Rooooth can go, as far as I’m concerned) so what answer will the writers come up with? My money’s on the Paul (Lilian’s erstwhile lover)/Ivy Horrobin solution, whereby potential problems were solved by killing off the character in question, so might Heather be living on borrowed time?

Momentous happenings too in the Hayley/Roy/Elizabeth saga. The week began badly for Roy when he showed a bit too much interest in what Liz was doing in the preparations for the Hunt Ball at Lower Loxley and he wondered why Hayley got a bit arsey when he said things like “I told Elizabeth she’d have to etc, etc…” On Tuesday, Hayley took the momentous - and probably unwise - step of confiding details of Roy’s affair to Vicky. Of all the people in Ambridge, only Susan would be a worse choice of confidante and it can only be a matter of time before the whole affair is public knowledge.

Mind you, the chances are that Vicky won’t get the chance to tell anyone, as Hayley went to see Lizzie (at Vicky’s suggestion) to find out exactly how long the affair had been going on. Roy had told her that he and Liz had only done the dastardly deed at the weekend away at the music festival, but Liz told Hayley that it also happened once at Lower Loxley. Hayley is hurt that Roy had lied to her and he returns home from Grey Gables on Friday to find her packing. Roy asks ‘why?’ (go on Roy, hazard a guess) and she says that it is because he didn’t tell her everything. People will start putting two and two together if Hayley suddenly leaves Ambridge.

Roy begs her not to go and says that he loves her and the children, to which she replies that she needs time to think “now that our marriage is over.” “We can’t be over, we can’t” Roy wails, to which Hayley says “You lost me when you fell in love with Elizabeth.” However, she demonstrates a fine sense of fairness by saying that she’s taking Abbie, but leaving Phoebe with Roy. Phoebe’s going to love that!

Another big decision is made when Helen tells Rob and the family that she’s going to give up work in order to spend quality time with Henry and pay more attention to Rob. Pat is not impressed and reverts to her default mode of blaming it all on Rob. Tony protests that Rob kept asking Helen if she was making the right decision, but Pat says that just shows how cunning and devious he is and “She genuinely thinks that this is her own idea.” The possibility that it actually might be is not entertained for a second and Rob is getting the blame for everything. Ebola spreading in Liberia? Rob’s fault. A rogue asteroid about to strike the Earth? It’s down to that Titchener fellow again.

Moving on to less Earth-shattering events, how can I get Bert to come and do my garden? Only a few days after Carol Tregorran asking him to do stuff in her garden, he’s dug in about three tons of well-rotted manure (having fetched it from the Stables) and created a load of raised beds that, judging from Carol’s reaction, rival the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Bert was born in 1936 so how come he’s working at the speed of a motorised excavator? He says he’s pleased to have a project to keep him busy - come and do my garden Bert; you’ll be bloody ecstatic. He also told Carol that he wrote poetry, but fortunately Jill managed to drag her away before we could be subjected to it.

Fallon goes for a drink with Alice and PC Burns is there with Justine, who Fallon says is the girl who dumped him on Valentine’s Day. Fallon grumbles about PCB being there, but methinks the lady doth protest too much and I still have hopes for the two of them getting together - I just wish they‘d get on with it.

And finally, what has happened to Darrell? Since he got his refurbished van-cum-bijou residence, he seems to have completely vanished from the face of the Earth.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

All About Timing

Felix Scott (Charlie Thomas)

Charlie Thomas is becoming ever more enigmatic - he turns up to learn from Adam that they are a man down because Jeff can’t make it and there’s no one to do the hauling. “What’s your solution?” demands Charlie and we thought ‘here we go again, getting on Adam’s case’. But no, as Charlie suggests that Ed can continue cleaning mud off the roads and he (Charlie) will do the hauling.

It all goes well; so well in fact that Charlie invites Adam to have a beer, a stock of which he happens to have in the cab. Soon the two are laughing and Charlie is regaling Adam with anecdotes and another beer is opened. Talk turns to the Hunt Ball and Adam asks Charlie if he’s going. Charlie says he probably will and Adam asks if he’s taking anyone. “You mean do I have a ‘Plus One’?” Charlie asks and the two begin some verbal fencing, with Adam saying “The other day you said the best things are worth waiting for - what did you mean?” Charlie replies that “You already know the answer to that Adam” and “It’s all about timing with me.” Play your cards right and you could ensure that you get the Estate contract renewal next year, Adam, although I don’t know what Ian would think.

Perhaps Charlie could give Rooooth some lessons in timing - she drove up to Prudhoe to see her mother Heather, who is recovering from a fall. A few days later, Rooooth returns, full of despondency and sighing so much that I thought she had morphed into the Jamie of a couple of years ago. The reason for the gloom is that Rooooth thinks that Heather will never be her old self and, when it was suggested that Heather move down to Borsetshire, she rejected the idea out of hand, telling her daughter that it would be like pulling herself up by the roots. Rooooth says she is too tired to think about it and David says she needs a good night’s sleep.

It obviously worked, as the following day she tells David that she’s had an idea and, although she says that she knows that this might not be the right time, she goes ahead and tells him anyway. Why is it not the right time? Because the family has gathered at Brookfield to celebrate Jill’s 84th birthday and they are seconds away from the cake cutting ceremony. And what is Rooooth’s plan? Well, she says that they could be fighting a losing battle over Route B and BL’s plans to cover Borsetshire with solar panels, so why not sell Brookfield (for which they’d get a good price, bearing in mind the interest in the proposed new road) and move a bit further north - somewhere near Prudhoe, say - so Rooooth could be nearer Heather (of whose age I am unaware).

David is aghast: “Leave Brookfield? Leave Ambridge?” in the same tone that one might say ‘Murder and eat my children?’ And what about the children? Stuff them, they’ll adapt. Rooooth is more concerned that the dairy herd could be moved north. I kept imagining ‘Rawhide’ (showing my age again) with Clint Eastwood playing Rowdy Yates with a Geordie accent.

David also says “What about Mum? It would break her heart.” This last comment is interesting, as Jill told Rooooth that she quite understands Heather’s reluctance to leave Prudhoe. Presumably Jill wouldn’t be included - and wouldn’t want to be - in any move north. Before Kenton comes out to drag them in for the blowing out of the candles. David says to his wife “Do you still want to do this to her?” Rooooth answers “I can’t think of another way, David.”

Now, I can help you here Rooooth; the obvious solution is for her to move north (Tromso or Vladivostok would be good) and leave the rest of the family in Borsetshire. If necessary, the cows could keep in touch via Skype. Alternatively, all the landline and mobile numbers at Brookfield could be changed and we need never hear from Rooooth again. In my dreams.

Elizabeth goes to see Carol Tregorran to welcome her to Glebe Cottage and breaks down in tears. Carol asks if she wants to talk about it and suggests that she knows it’s something to do with Roy - she had her suspicions at her husband John’s funeral when she saw them together, Carol says that she has had lots of experience at recognising the signs as John was something of a philanderer. Liz begs her not to tell anyone and Carol says “Your secret is safe with me.” A word of advice, Lizzie - never break down in front of Susan or Vicky and beg for their silence, or you’ll have to quit Borsetshire.

Finally, we have an unexpected consequence of the unseasonably warm weather - one forgets how close it is to Christmas, which means Lynda Snell’s annual torture - sorry, I meant ‘festive production’. This year, the Felpersham Light Operatic Society has raised the bar by scheduling Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Seasons Greetings’. How can Lynda top this? Husband Robert says “It’s not a competition”, making me think that he doesn’t really know his wife very well. He suggests ’Sinbad’ but she pours scorn on this, before later coming up with her ‘inspired’ idea - Rumpelstiltskin. Be still, my beating heart and give me two tickets for the Ayckbourn.

The next day, posters appear round the village, ordering people to turn up for auditions and, as Roy begins his minimum wage job at Grey Gables, Lynda says that, as he and Hayley have left Lower Loxley, they will have time to participate in her extravaganza.  Little does Lynda, or Roy, know that Phoebe has told Hayley that she knows that Roy has been having an affair with Elizabeth, so when he gets home he might have more on his mind than treading the boards.