Sunday, 23 November 2014

Has Rob got his eyes on Bridge Farm now?

Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener)

Everyone’s still in shock about Tony’s accident, except it seems Rob. He’s taking control of the situation, no doubt thinking about what could be in it for him if Tony doesn’t pull through. You can almost hear him rubbing his hands together as Pat talks through the details of Tony’s impending operation and the likely outcomes, and when Pat thanks him, he simply says “we’re family Pat’. He’s even got Eddie helping out as well as Johnny putting in full days. Peggy thinks the sun shines out of his proverbial and Helen’s happy to leave him to it. Might as well get the farm all ship-shape on someone else’s money while you’ve got the opportunity Rob.

Pat comes back with more news from the Hospital – something about chest drains – and declines an offer of a bite to eat by saying she had ‘a pasty in the car’. Sounds unlikely to me - I would need to know the provenance before commenting further. A Ginsters from a service station or a previous purchase from Ambridge Organics? We need to know.

Brian must have thought he had it all sewn up last week with that handshake, but when David tells him they’re putting Brookfield out to auction he grudgingly accepts he would have done the same thing too. Later in the Bull Brian and Adam are working out how they’re going to raise the money to buy Brookfield when Eddie comes along trying to sell tickets for his turkey extravaganza, even suggesting that his mystical turkey could help with their decision making. Eddie thinks a fiver for a sausage roll and glass of cider offers value for money. However I fear there will be plenty begging to differ once they taste his cider and then play Russian roulette with the sausage rolls (e-coli anyone, remember Dirty Clary?).

A different bake in the form of Orange and Almond polenta cake is on offer when Jim goes round to Lynda’s for a committee meeting. However it turns out they’re the only committee members present and Lynda intends to inform the rest via round-robin email. It turns out that Justin Elliot has got himself onto the Borsetshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Linda senses something afoot. Traffic figures are on the agenda again as it appears the council have ‘sexed up’ their report. The thought of a council sexing up anything makes me shudder, but not as much as when David stumbles across Jim and Lynda carrying out research in a lay-by and wonders whether they’re doing a bit of sexing up of their own. Rest easy listeners, the moaning you could hear in the background was only the sound of the Bridge Farm cows being separated from their calves.

Good news, Carol hasn’t got dry hyacinths! This revelation comes courtesy of Bert Fry who continues to help plan the garden while dispensing philosophical advice. Carol is so enraptured by Bert’s wisdom that her Bridge guests start to arrive while she’s still in the Garden – Peggy’s the first to turn up. Carol’s starts mixing up the herbs again (I hope she knows what Bert’s been planting) and plys Jenny with the resulting concoction. Soon she’s lighting up a Smudge Stick (don’t ask) to create the correct ambiance, before getting Christine blotto on the ginger wine to the extent that she passes out on the sofa. All this gleeful intoxication of her guests leads one to speculate whether she had a hand in John Tregorran’s demise, and suddenly her character is imbued with sinister expectations.

Lil’s upset after visiting Tony, but her attention is diverted by the news of Jess’s baby. Jenny wonders if he’s got Rob’s eyes – that’s certainly what I’ve got my money on – and I can’t wait for the episode when she brings the new arrival to Ambridge. There was a tantalising preview of the tension we can expect when Jenny tells Helen the news, and Helen, obviously very much in denial, says that it’s nothing to do with her OR ROB!

Brian says he can stretch to £5.5m for Bridge Farm, casually mentioning that Adam and Debbie will be left to pick up the necessary mortgage payment– he’s all heart. Jenny takes it all in her stride; “good girl” is Brian’s response as she heads out for Bridge at Carol’s, before getting pissed with Adam on a ‘fruity Beaujolais’. Little does he know that Justin Elliot is willing to put up £7m to buy Brookfield. That’s going to hurt.

The effects of Carol’s herby mixture seem to be long-lasting on Jennifer, as she inadvertently puts loose-leaf tea in the cafetiere (oh the horror) and she too speculates on Carol’s past. She even contemplates contacting Carol and John’s offspring in the search for answers.

In an attempt to carry on living a ‘normal’ life, Rob encourages Helen to go on a hunt. This doesn’t go well as the hounds lose the scent and instead latch onto a fox, which they subsequently rip limb-from-limb in the traditional manner. This is too much for Helen after witnessing what happened to her father, and this is compounded by finding a newspaper headline all about the accident that had been ‘hidden’ by Rob.

By the way, Pip sounds off-colour. Either that or there’s been another sinister ‘replacement’ in the village (remember what I said about Tom? You have been warned).

Finally, Pat has a heart-to-heart with Johnny who thinks he messed up with Otto, blaming himself for the accident and putting Henry in harms way. Pat tries to re-assure him by saying that it’s par for the course for farmers, and encourages him to visit Tony in Hospital. I would if I were you son, get it over with while he’s paralysed and can’t throttle you.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Glad You Went Into Beef, Tony?

David Troughton (Tony Archer)

Honestly, some people just have to be the centre of attention, don’t they? Take last week - it was Peggy’s 90th birthday and Pat and Tony were hosting a party for her. On Sunday, Peggy slipped and twisted her ankle and it was bothering her all week, but she resisted suggestions to go to the doctor’s.

Tony had to upstage her - he and Ed were bringing the cows in and Tony has entrusted Johnny with the job of looking after Henry and Johnny took Henry out to see the cows coming in. When Henry saw Tony, he ran towards him - this spooked Otto the bull, who charged. Tony knocked Henry out of the way but Otto hit Tony and trampled him and threw him against a wall.

None of his mother’s stiff upper lip here, as Tony is rushed to hospital by air ambulance. To be fair, Peggy just had a sore ankle, while Tony (as we learn later) has a suspected pneumothorax, broken bones, serious chest damage and damage to his spinal cord. The surgeon wants to run an MRI scan to assess the extent of the damage. Pat wants him to operate as soon as possible, but he explains that it’s not as easy as that as “there’s a possibility that he might become wheelchair dependent.” Astute as ever, Pat asks “You mean he might not be able to walk?” Well, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to start smoking wheelchairs, does it?

As Tony is wheeled into surgery, Pat tells him “Fight like you have for us all all your life - don’t you dare leave me now.” Always nagging, that woman. Going back to Peggy’s party, the drinks were supplied by Matt and Lilian and, when they dropped it off, Pat told Tony that “there was enough to open a small off licence.” Small? Is Lilian cutting down in her old age?

Debbie is the latest casualty of BL’s night of the long knives, as she is told by e-mail that her services are no longer required. Brian and Adam are worried, as they have a serious amount of equipment on their hands - way too much for the reduced acreage that they now farm. Perhaps layoffs will have to be made?

But wait - Adam has a plan; why not buy one of the Brookfield parcels of land? Brian is for it, but Jennifer is initially against it, saying that it seems ghoulish and David and Rooooth might think they were taking advantage. Adam points out that somebody will buy it and wouldn’t it be better if it stayed in the family? Jennifer is convinced and asks if they should buy one or two parcels? “Tell you what,” says Adam, now firmly in Tom Archer mode, “let’s not go in for bits and pieces - let’s buy the whole place.”

Brian goes to see David and Rooooth to tell them of the plan. Rooooth says that it will all come down to price in the end. When Brian has left, Rooooth says: “Waxed jacket, cravat and brogues - Brian doesn’t look like the traditional Fairy Godmother, but maybe that’s what he’s about to become.” David says that Jill would be pleased if Brookfield stayed in the family.

Or maybe not, as Graham Ryder tells David later that there is considerable interest in the sale and he suggests setting up a telephone auction when all serious bidders are free. This could significantly push up the price past the predicted £4.5 million, he says. What to do about Brian? Rooooth says “We gave him the impression that he had first refusal.” David says “No, we said we had no objection” and “If Brian is really interested, let him bid against the rest.” So much for the Fairy Godmother. And so much too for Jill, it would appear.

As we get nearer to Christmas, we learn that Carol Tregorran has obviously lost her mind, as Eddie tells Joe that she has agreed to do a reading at his turkey extravaganza. Joe tells David to bring the family to the Thanksgiving pardoning of the turkey, adding: “Ambridge ain’t never seen the like of our turkey pardon before.” A bemused David agrees, saying: “No; I’m quite sure that’s true.”

Of course, Christmas also means Lynda Snell’s festive offering. Helen talks about it to Peggy, saying that it’s not going too well. Peggy, obviously tetchy with the pain of her ankle, rather tartly remarks that one year people will tell Lynda to get lost. That’s what I’ve been hoping for for years, but she keeps getting away with it. Helen says that the latest rehearsal wasn’t very good and oh yes - they still haven’t found anyone to play Charles. I submit that this is a major flaw, as Charles is the leading character - Blithe Spirit with no Charles would be a bit like Hamlet without the Danish Prince. We aren’t told whether or not Susan has discovered yet that she will be playing a maid.

Perhaps Lynda should concentrate on her opposition to the new road. She and Jim discuss tactics and Jim feels that they should go back to basics and question the need for any road at all. Jim suggests that the Council’s projections of traffic growth are flawed and he will drill down into them. Lynda then turns into a cross between Joan of Arc and Winston Churchill, telling Jim: “We have to fire up the meeting tomorrow. Yes, we’re facing setbacks, but the fight isn’t over yet and you and I will lead the charge into the next, decisive battle Jim.” Jim is impressed, saying: “That was magnificent Lynda.” Anything that possibly stops her doing her Christmas show gets my seal of approval, but I bet it will still go ahead.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Isn’t Anybody Happy?

Andrew Wincott (Adam Macy)

Ambridge is getting more like Albert Square every week, with long faces and people going around moaning. It wasn’t a good week for Adam, who was roped in as a chauffeur for the first shoot of the season. At the end of the shoot, Justin Eliot gave him £20 “to share with the other chauffeurs” and an incensed Adam tells his mother that he should have ripped it up in front of him because “he was putting me in my place”.

I wouldn’t be so hasty Adam, as you could well do with the money before long; on Friday Charlie tells Adam that the arable contract will not be renewed with Home Farm next year. The problem, explains Charlie, is that Debbie is trying to run the place from Hungary and he has no problem with Adam. In fact, Charlie has spoken to RB Contracting (the people who have been awarded the contract) and they are keen to have Adam on board. Even by Charlie’s standards, this is monumentally insensitive and Adam tells him to stuff it. Adam moans to poor, long-suffering Ian and nearly explodes when he receives a text from Charlie, which says ‘When you calm down, the offer holds good’. The man is tact personified.

The shoot was also responsible for making Will feel even more unhappy than usual, which is saying something. There is a distinct lack of birds on some of the drives and the comments from some of the guns afterwards are distinctly lukewarm, with the tips reflecting the lack of satisfaction. Will gives brother Ed his money for serving as a beater, saying “If it carries on like this, we won’t have a very good Christmas.” A morose Ed replies “Well, at least that’s something we’ve got in common.” In fact, this is probably the most that the two brothers have said to each other in years.

David and Rooooth’s decision to put Brookfield on the market has put the dampers on the mood of a number of people. The brochure has been printed and the ’For Sale’ sign is up. Kenton lets it be known that he could crown David for making Jill decide so soon whether or not to leave Ambridge. That’s not the only decision Jill has to make - should she take the bees up north or not? In the end, she decides against it. Kenton is mildly unpleasant to his brother David - at the fireworks extravaganza, David turns up with a petition against Route B and Kenton says that he’s surprised “Now that you and Rooooth have thrown in the towel.”

David broke the news about the sale to Eddie, rather than let him come across the For Sale sign, always assuming he can read, that is. Eddie pronounces himself ‘gobsmacked’ and realises that he might find it difficult to find dairy work to replace the time that he currently puts in at Brookfield.

One of the factors that influenced Jill’s decision to accompany David up north might have been that she will be getting away from Lynda’s Christmas productions. This year she is putting on a production of ’Blithe Spirit’ and has cast herself as Madame Arcarte. Time is tight, so there’s no chance of auditions and Lynda is casting on the hoof; picking those who she thinks will be best for each role. Susan is delighted when Lynda says that she is ideal for the part of Edith. Susan says that she is pushed for time, but she can’t resist the chance to dress up like Lady Mary (of Downton Abbey fame). This shows that presumably Susan hasn’t seen the play, or else she would know that Edith is the maid, not an aristocrat. I suspect that, when she finds out, she will join the growing ranks of unhappy people in Ambridge.

Someone who seemed reasonably happy is Jazzer, although I’m a bit perturbed about his attitude towards the pigs. He and Johnny are feeding the animals and Jazzer says “The lasses need entertaining” and he gives them something to play with. I suppose we’re lucky that he didn’t take them to the pictures. “Pigs are the queens of beasts” he tells Johnny. Let’s face it, Jazzer has never been this complimentary or sensitive about any of his girlfriends - I wonder if he’ll end up sleeping with the pigs?

Non-speaking inhabitants of Ambridge had big parts this week; Kenton was cursing Hilary Noakes, whose protest about the fireworks on the green meant that the display was held on Jubilee Field, making it harder work for Kenton to set up the PA system. Molly and Tilly Button made an amazing guy, for which Kenton led a round of applause.

Molly featured again later on firework night - at Bridge Farm, Johnny was very upbeat because the girl he fancied - Melanie - said she’d go to the display with him, but then she cried off due to a family party. This was a lie and Johnny was devastated when he found out that she was in fact seeing someone else. Johnny told Tony that he didn’t want to go to the fireworks and Tony decided to give him the benefit of his experiences with women. This appeared to be mostly a catalogue of humiliation and rejection and I’m surprised that Johnny didn’t go off to be a hermit or a monk. However, it worked, as Johnny did go and Tony said to David and Pat: “He must be feeling better - just look who he’s talking to.” We didn’t find out until the following night that it was Molly Button, which surprised me, as I thought Johnny would have set his cap at Elizabeth; after all, everyone in Ambridge knows that she’s a red hot certainty and she seems to prefer younger men.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bonus Posting – Keep Tom In Canada Campaign!

News in the press (3rd November) of Tom Archer started warning bells ringing. The Daily Mail headline read ’Tom jilted by Archers’ and revealed that Tom Graham, who has played Tom for 17 years, has been dropped from the soap. As he put it, “My reign as the Sausage King of Ambridge has come to an end and I am being deposed.”

My first thought was ‘good, that means we won’t hear from Tom again’, but reading on, the article said that a few weeks ago, the Archers editor revealed that some of the younger cast members would be replaced by more experienced actors. A spokesman was quoted as saying “Characters are frequently recast”.

It was the words ‘replaced’ and ‘recast’ that set off the alarms – having got rid of Tom to Canada, this was an ideal opportunity to let the character fade into obscurity and never again darken our radios. However, if Tom is being recast, that implies that he will be returning at some stage.

NO, NO, NO! This must not happen! Pick up your pens, exercise your Tweeting finger, fire up the e-mails and let the BBC know that Tom is really very happy in Canada and doing very well and the last thing he wants is to return home. Rumour has it he’s thinking of marrying a local girl who has a terrible phobia about travelling – planes, ships; you name it and she just cannot travel in it. Sad that this means that they are forever confined to Canada, but there you go.

While you’re at it, ask the Archers editor to try and persuade Peggy to change her Will – as things stand at the moment, when she pops her clogs, he will inherit the majority of her estate and that might just persuade Tom to come back to Blighty. And we don’t want that, do we?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Whatever Happened To The Butterfly?

Thecla betulae (Brown Hairstreak)

No doubt about the main story last week, which came to a climax on Friday - Halloween night. Brian was at The Bull and Kenton (dressed as Gomez Addams) was trying to read his Tarot and one card (the Tower, inverted) apparently heralds a big change. This is obviously superfast Tarot, as Brian’s phone immediately rings and it’s Annabelle. Late as it is, Brian says he’s coming round right now.

At Brookfield, David and Rooooth are waiting up for Jill to return from her Bridge lesson. She does so and, while talking about it, they hear a car. It’s Brian, who apologises for the lateness of the hour, but he has news that he cannot give over the phone; Annabelle told him that the Council have made their decision over the new road and their preferred route is Route B. After a few seconds silence, David says in a flat voice: “That’s it then, it’s over. It’s the end for us at Brookfield.” The final episode of the week ends with Jill wailing “No! No!”

Whatever happened to the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly, I ask myself? I thought that it was the anti Route B protesters’ talisman. Have I missed something? Has Justin Eliot had them (it) removed? Earlier in the week, David and Rooooth had found a nice farm up north, with good grass and, as David told Adam, it has a farmhouse that is bigger and more modern than Brookfield and which, says David, is a nice house. “But is it a home?” asks Adam. Earlier on in the week, David was telling Rooooth that leaving Brookfield could be a chance to start again and a great opportunity. Make your mind up.

So it wasn’t a happy Halloween for those at Brookfield, but there was much celebration elsewhere. Things were rocking at The Bull - as well as Kenton’s Tarot reading, Jolene (Morticia Addams) was reading palms. Someone who wasn’t happy was Fallon, who was annoyed because PC Burns was in there, drinking with Justine. Fallon moans to her Mum - why does he have to come to The Bull to drink? Jolene points out that it’s a free country and, besides, it was Fallon who finished with PCB and she should move on. Later on, when reading PCB’s palm, Jolene ties to tell him that his love life doesn’t look too happy and he should express his emotions more “Like when you sang Annie’s Song”, which was when PCB was serenading Fallon. Keep up the matchmaking Jolene.

As well as Halloween, this was the week of the Hunt Ball at Lower Loxley. Charlie Thomas was there with a stunning-looking girl, Rebecca, and he buttonholes Adam, getting him to have a go on the mechanical rodeo bull and at the horn blowing contest. Adam just wants to talk about next year’s contract, but Charlie is set on having a good time and tells Adam to forget about work for one night. That’s rich, coming from a workaholic. Charlie also tells Adam that Rebecca is his sister.

The Hunt Ball also gave us an insight into the character of Rob Titchener as he exhibited a worrying streak of control freakery. Early in the week, he was annoyed because Helen was holding an early Halloween party for Henry, Susan, George and Keira at Blossom Hill cottage and not, as had been planned, at Ambridge View. He was annoyed because Helen hadn’t told him about the change of plan and predicted that the place would be wrecked. As it turned out, Helen cleared everything up and Rob was grudgingly impressed, until he found a cupcake and other assorted food in the pockets of his dinner jacket, that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put them there himself.

On the day of the Hunt Ball, Helen has glammed up and chosen what, from Rob’s reaction, was a stunning, revealing dress. He tells her that it would be more appropriate if they were having a tete-a-tete and she agrees to change, asking him what he’d recommend. Rob bangs on about how it might be cold watching the fireworks and so presumably he chooses a duffel coat, or similar, for her. At the Ball, Helen is telling Justin Eliot about how she and the children found 11 dead pheasants on their walk earlier and it’s because of the increased number of birds needed for the extra shoots he‘s arranged. As Justin goes off, Helen says she’ll get another drink, to which an annoyed Rob suggests that she sticks to mineral water for the rest of the night. Be careful Helen - you’ll be tied up in the kitchen before long if Rob carries on like this.

There was much meddling with the supernatural last week, with Jennifer holding a séance - inspired by one of the books left to her by John Tregorran - with Lilian and Alice, both of who were sceptical. Lilian moved the table for a bit of fun, but the mood changed when knocking was heard - its answers to questions revealed that it was a male, unfriendly spirit. It turned out to be Brian up to mischief and when he appeared suddenly, making moaning noises, the three girls screamed.

At The Bull, Kenton, Jolene and Fallon had an Ouija session, which broke up as the glass (in answer to the question ‘who are you?’) spelled out JOHN TREGO… and Fallon and Jolene left the circle, accusing Kenton of moving the glass. “As if I would” he said in a hurt voice.

Ed was having a moan because he had to dig a new main, as a spring had dried up. Dad Eddie was mystified, as the spring had never before run dry in decades. I wonder if the disappearing spring is going to be a factor in whether or not the new road goes through?