Saturday, 30 January 2016

Bonus Posting: The Chickens Are Gathering On The Wires

The chickens in question are those that will surely soon be coming home to roost for Rob and, yes, I know chickens don’t perch on wires, but I plead artistic licence.

I was just contemplating a bonus posting about how Rob would get his come-uppance – with the usual morality of the Archers, the fact that he will get what’s coming to him one day is surely a nailed-on certainty – and who would be the instigator. I was going to do it along the lines of bookies’ odds (Kirsty – Evens, Charlie 3/1 etc.) and then the following comment was made, by Mr or Ms Anonymous, on last week’s blog.

How many people suspect Rob? Charlie, obviously - the blocked culvert and the financial irregularities at Berrow. Who did he tell? Adam? Not Justin or the Demara or BL board, it seems. What did the consultants report say? Jennifer spoke to Stefan before he left. Shula saw Rob assault someone, and then lied to protect him. Has she forgotten? Does Oliver know he is a potential liability for the hunt? Doctor Locke must know something compromising from his past. Perhaps Shula and he will swap stories at some point. Ian exchanged blows with him after the cycle race. Kirsty clearly thinks something is up. Tom? No doubt they will confide in each other at some point. Amazing how pliant and blind Pat has become. She will be furious with him (and should be furious with herself). Are there others I have missed?

OK, so each character sees a small piece and the listeners can see the whole picture, but this cannot go on for very much longer. One also wonders if this gripping but unpleasant story line is gaining or losing listeners....

That’s a pretty comprehensive list of people who have no reason to feel anything positive for Rob, but it lacks a few detractors. The most obvious one is Helen herself, whose pregnancy is the result of, not to put too fine a point on it, rape by her husband and whose life is currently being made a misery by Rob’s control freakery. However, I think we can safely rule Helen out as an instrument of revenge; at least until she grows a backbone. I suppose she might suddenly snap and we could have an episode where she is standing over Rob’s mutilated body, wielding a blood-stained carving knife and sobbing “I’m sorry, Rob… I’m so sorry” but the odds are against it.

Another who has no love for Rob must be ex-wife Jess. Rob was awful to her when there was the possibility that he was the father of her unborn child and, when this proved to be otherwise, he was even worse (see “…In Victory, Unbearable”). Jess wasn’t a happy camper and you know what they say about a woman scorned.

Others who Rob has upset include the Darrington cricket team (and, indeed, most of the Ambridge team) when Rob edged a ball to the keeper, but refused to do the gentlemanly thing and walk (see "It’s NotWhether You Win Or Lose – Oh Sorry, Apparently It Is"). Never mind causing the village to be flooded and nearly drowning Charlie – such behaviour is beyond the pale. However, if the Darrington lot take revenge into their own hands, the crime shouldn’t be too hard to solve, as Rob will be showing signs of having been bludgeoned with a blunt object, probably made of willow, and the cricket stump through the heart would be a good clue.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

…And It’s ‘Goodbye’ From Him

Felix Scott (Charlie Thomas)

For someone who was universally hated only a few months ago, Charlie might soon be opening the Ambridge branch of his fan club. We had Rooooth telling him that he’s not that bad really and Jennifer putting on a ‘farewell’ soiree for him and last week, Brian was singing his praises.

On Sunday, Charlie was - if not wallowing, then definitely at least paddling - in self-pity, telling Brian that he’s not surprised that Justin has lost faith in him and Brian tells him that he mustn’t blame himself for the failure of Berrow Farm (this is against the background of fleets of trucks taking the cows away to God only knows where) and - in a rare flash of honesty and self-awareness - “you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve messed up - in every possible way.“ We learn that Brian’s charitable words are born partly from self-interest, as he says that he had hoped that Charlie would stay, as he would perhaps be a restraining influence on Adam and it’s a shame that Charlie won’t be around to keep Adam in check. A morose Charlie agrees, saying sadly: “Yes it is, but some things just aren’t meant to be.”

On Wednesday, Brian tells Adam that he feels guilty about the way Charlie has been treated and “I can’t help feeling sorry for him.” Adam has obviously decided that, as far as he is concerned, Charlie is history, as he tells Brian: “Neither can I Brian, but unfortunately that’s life, isn’t it?”

Charlie spent the rest of the week wandering around like a spare part until, on Friday, he came across Adam, who was looking at a broken gate, or something similar. Charlie helps him get the gate off and offers to stay and help get the gatepost out of the ground. It is a very awkward, stilted conversation and Adam suggests that Charlie must have lots of loose ends to tie up at Berrow and hanging around is not a good idea, for lots of reasons. Proving that he can take a hint, Charlie says ‘goodbye’ to Adam and we hear him drive off. As he goes, Adam breathes a barely audible ‘goodbye’ in a sad voice. Have we heard the last of Charlie, or will he return at some stage in the future to tempt Adam again? Wouldn’t it be ironic if Charlie went to Perthshire and then Ian decided that he couldn’t trust Adam and broke up with him?

If the Charlie/Adam story was a slow burner with a ‘will they, won’t they?’ theme, the romance between Pip and Matthew is more a ‘will they, too damn right they will; every chance they get’ story. Matthew suggests that it might be an idea if someone from Brookfield visited a farm in Dorset where he used to work, and which operates along the same sort of system as the proposed new regime at Brookfield. Pip, the scheming little minx, engineers it so that she and Matthew are the ones to go and visit the Welbys and, as it’s so far to go, they had better stay the night, hadn’t they?

It was a successful visit as, on the journey home, we learn that Pip knocked over the bedside light during the night and she blamed him for hogging the duvet. Oh yes: they did manage to spare some time to look at the cows, milking parlour and healthy profit projections, so it wasn’t totally one big nookie-fest. There is much banter and flirting on the way home, but then Matthew gets a text from the agency - his next mission, should he decide to accept it, is a six-month contract up near Penrith. Matthew says it’s a pity that it’s so far from Ambridge. “Yes, isn’t it?” Pip agrees. Will we have another person leaving Ambridge the week after next, or will Matthew stay at Brookfield? If so, they’ll have to create a job for him and, judging by recent conversations about how tight things are moneywise, this seems unlikely. Matthew describes the Penrith job as “a no brainer”, with good money and great accommodation. That’s as maybe, but does it include the chance of bonking the farmer’s daughter?

The Matthew/Pip situation hasn’t gone down well with Rex - he is cutting up a fallen tree, aided by Josh, and Rooooth tells him that Pip and Matthew are off to Dorset. Rex’s emotions must have shown, as when he and Josh have gone, David and Rooooth fall about laughing, with David saying (rather unkindly) “Did you see his face!” On the plus side, David says that Matthew seems like a nice lad “and I least I don’t want to keep punching him in the face, as I did Jude.” Praise indeed! I reckon you’re in there, Matthew.

Rex’s mood isn’t improved when he casually asks Josh whether Pip is serious about Matthew? “Totally” is his enthusiastic response. And it gets worse - on Friday, Rex tells Toby that, when Matthew and Pip returned from Dorset “they were all over each other this morning.”

Actually, Rex has got the mega-hump with his brother, who has only just returned after a 10-day absence after he fled suddenly to Brighton. Toby won’t answer his brother’s questions about what happened, except to say that “money’s done the job” and there’s no need for him to go back to Brighton any longer. This does nothing to mellow Rex’s mood, as he points out that it was he who had to find the £500 in the first place. Will we ever learn what was going on?

Josh had a substantial speaking part this week - we learned that he has serious reservations about the proposed new regime at Brookfield and lists all the things that could go wrong. David and Rooooth listen carefully, then tell him that it’s going to happen, so get used to it. Josh mentions that he’s going to do a BSc in agriculture, with farm management. “Following in your sister’s footsteps” says David, approvingly. “Yes, except that I’m actually going to use my degree” Josh retorts. Ouch! Saucer of milk for young Mr Archer! He tells Rex (in front of his parents) that he “needs a back-up plan if Mum and Dad’s mad dairy scheme goes pear-shaped.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Josh! For their part, David and Rooooth have a serious talk, with him saying “this is our children’s future we’re talking about.” Rooooth’s response? “We will make it work David.” So that’s all right then.

I am convinced that Rob Titchener probably spent his childhood pulling the wings off butterflies and burning ants with a magnifying glass - why else would he so obviously get his jollies from upsetting people and generally being such a nasty sod? The latest victim is Tom - Rob found some packs of beef in the chiller and brought up the fact with Tom that they weren’t organic. Tom explains that it was a spur of the moment decision and they are local and high quality and “we have to stay light on our feet and respond to what the customers want.” Rob says sarcastically that it has been very enlightening to learn about the change in strategy.

Later in the week, he brings the subject up at the shop planning meeting (Tom, Rob and Pat). He says that he’d like to know where the new boundaries lie and whether he and Helen will have any say in what is ordered, or is it now all down to Tom? Pat is appalled that Tom never consulted Rob and says he must do so in future. An increasingly-pissed off Tom says curtly “Fine. Apologies all round” to which Rob responds with a chuckle and in a voice dripping with smugness “No apology necessary Tom.” God, I hate him! How will it all end? I reckon that Kirsty will do for him in the end, or else Helen will turn against him when her new baby is revealed to have horns, wings, a tail and cloven hooves.

On Friday, Lilian and Justin are out riding - he is wondering whether or not to buy the two horses (as you do) - and he is very complimentary to her, admiring her horsewomanship. He gives her some advice about which properties to keep and sell and tells her that he wishes that there were more people in Borsetshire with her wisdom and spirit. Do I sense a budding romance? Justin is married, but that hasn’t stopped Lilian in the past. Be warned Justin - the spirit in question is gin and you’ll need all your millions to keep up.

This week’s “if only” moment came when Lynda was telling Lilian that she has been in Ambridge for 30 years and she very nearly left in the early days after a disagreement (I think it was with Eddie). However, Robert talked her out of it and they decided to stay. Robert, be warned - I’m going to hunt you down, pal.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Cat Got Your Tongue Alistair?

Daisy Badger (Pip Archer)

It was a busy week for vet Alistair, but we didn’t hear him complain. In fact, we didn’t hear him full stop. On Monday, he is at Brookfield, testing the cows for TB, or so we are told, as all we heard was his car as he drove off, with the job done.

On Thursday, he returns to Brookfield with the results of the tests - we know this because again we hear his car and David helpfully yells out to Pip and Matthew that “Alistair is here.” I can’t remember if we heard his car depart, but once again Alistair came and went wordlessly. You will be pleased to know that there were no TB reactors, but we heard it from David, not Alistair.

He was name checked on Friday by wife Shula, who explained to Charlie at the latter’s leaving soiree that Alistair is operating out of rented premises in Penny Hassett, which explains why he didn’t make the party. If the actor who plays Alistair is getting paid for these non-appearances, then it’s been money for old rope over the past few weeks.

Let’s return to the party. On Tuesday Jennifer meets Charlie and she decides that he should have a proper send-off and forces him to agree to a party at Home Farm on Friday evening. He wasn’t sure, but Jen mentions that Brian has got some really good malt whisky (I bet he’ll thank her for revealing that) and she won’t take no for an answer. Just as Charlie has given in, Helen makes an appearance and Jen promptly invites her and Rob. As Charlie leaves, Helen points out to Jen that Charlie and Rob didn’t see eye-to-eye when Rob left Berrow Farm and it could be awkward if they were to meet. The day before the party, an interview with Rob appeared in the Echo, in which he suggested that many of Berrow Farm’s problems were down to poor management. Perhaps it was just as well that Rob called off on the evening of the party (Helen wasn’t feeling too good, or so he said).

Considering that many in the village regarded Charlie as just one step down from Satan, there are some nice things said about him at the party. Even Rooooth, who was implacably against Berrow Farm from the start, conceded that nobody could fault the effort that Charlie put in, but she did qualify this by saying that she wouldn’t want to work the way they did.

Charlie, fortified by red wine, hot toddies and Brian’s best malt, doesn’t really care and he invites Adam outside. Ian didn’t make the party - he probably could have, but thought better of it - and Charlie tells Adam that there’s something he’d like to share with Adam. The something is a passionate kiss and he asks Adam: “How can you really just let me go when I know you feel the same?” Adam admits that he does love Charlie and he never wanted him to go “but I’m a coward.” Adam invites Charlie to stay a moment longer and the week ends with the two enjoying another long kiss.

Rob did his best to remove yet another of Helen’s emotional props when she asks him if she looks all right? Rob says she looks blooming to him and asks why she mentioned it? Helen replies that Kirsty told her she didn’t look at all well when they met at Helen’s pamper day at the Grey Gables health club. “What a bitch!” Rob shouts, saying that Kirsty obviously has an agenda and “wouldn’t it be better if we just forgot about her and moved on?” Helen half-heartedly defends Kirsty, saying “she was my best friend”, to which Rob replies “yes, was; she’s hardly bothered to keep in touch, has she? Where was she when Tony was at Death’s door? Let’s face it darling - I think you’re better off without her.” Well done Rob; first you engineered the estrangement with Ian, now it’s Kirsty - presumably the next wedge will be driven between Helen and her family and then she’ll have no-one to turn to.

Thursday saw the wassail ceremony (another old tradition that we’ve never heard of before), with Joe dressed as the Wassail King and Phoebe as the Queen. There is a bonfire and flaming torches and much quaffing of cider and the ceremony apparently involves the Queen climbing up into an apple tree and tying a bit of toast to a branch (don’t ask) and then pouring some cider round the tree’s roots. While this merriment is going on (with Eddie getting ever-more pissed) someone notices flames at Grange Farm. Fortunately, we learn the next day that it was only one of Oliver’s sheds that was burned down and fortunately they saved the lawn mower. Hardly what Oliver was expecting from his rent-free-living tenants, but Eddie is confident that he can knock up another shed in no time.

Ronnie and Reggie, the fugitive pigs, are still at large and causing mayhem by trashing people’s gardens. They were finally caught in Grundys’ field, helping themselves to the Grundys’ turkey pellets. Joe - never one to miss an opportunity - said that he deserved a finder’s fee (he told Tom where the pigs were) and settled for a couple of pints.

Mystery surrounds the Fairbrothers: they are discussing future plans (such as getting into eggs) when Toby gets a text message. He immediately tells Rex that he has to get to Brighton immediately (intriguingly, an exasperated Rex says “not again!”) oh, and by the way, he needs some money (“£500 should be enough”) and, dragging Rex along to the bank, Toby promises that “this will be the last time.” Rex tells him to sort his life out and we are left perplexed, wondering what is going on with the brothers. No doubt we will know before long, but please feel free to speculate.

Love’s young dream went horribly wrong for Phoebe, as she told Jennifer that her boyfriend Alex has told her to choose between him and Oxford and she loves him and doesn’t want to lose him. I wouldn’t worry, Phoebe, as Jen is so desperate for you to go to Oxford, that she would probably kill Alex with her bare hands if he stands in your way. As it is, Jen tells her that she mustn’t give up on Oxford: “This could be the chance of a lifetime, Phoebe; you mustn’t throw it away.” Fortunately, she stops short of saying “so stuff Alex”, which wouldn’t have gone down that well.

Jennifer urges Phoebe to talk to her parents and Phoebe shows that she really is clever enough to go to Oxford when she tells her grandmother that she has tried to reach Hayley and she certainly doesn’t want to talk to Kate. At the wassail ceremony, Phoebe talks to both Hayley and Roy and they gently ask whether she thinks Alex is taking what Phoebe wants into account? “But I love him Mum” Phoebe tells Hayley (note the ‘Mum’). Hayley suggests that Alex might be being just a teeny bit selfish and, if he really loves her, he’ll find a way of coping, wherever she goes. Roy says that, if he’s forcing her to choose, then he hasn’t really got her best interests at heart. “All we really want is for you to be happy” he tells his daughter. Phoebe saw sense and told Alex that she was going to try for Oxford and he was horrible to her, saying that she obviously preferred her snotty friends (she hasn’t even got there yet) and he’s gone off her anyway. This feeling suddenly seems to be reciprocated, as Phoebe tells Jennifer that she is going to try her best to get into Oxford, obviously having learned a valuable lesson about young love. As for Alex, his life has been spared, as Jennifer leaves the cheese wire garrote in her handbag.

Actually, there was a lot of love about last week, as we had Pip going on a date with Matthew the milker. This prompted a dialogue between Rex and Toby; Rex was bemoaning the fact that Pip seems smitten with Matthew, to which Toby replies that there are plenty more fish in the sea - “All you need is the right tackle.” 

In the early hours of the morning, neither Rooooth nor Jill can sleep and meet in the kitchen. Rooth suggests they turn down the radio, as Pip is sleeping in the dining room while Matthew is living in Rickyard. Jill says that she doesn’t think Pip is there, as she thought she heard someone going over to Rickyard earlier. They check and, sure enough, her bed is empty. Who’d have thought that Pip would still be sleepwalking at her age? Be gentle with him Pip - after all, he’s got to get up and do the early morning milking.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sorry Seems To Be The Easiest Word

Louiza Patikas (Helen Titchener)

Especially if your name is Helen, that is. On Tuesday, Rob goes off with the hunt, ignoring his wife’s comments and questions about the bank statement, showing that large sums have been spent over the past few weeks. Helen is still trying to get in touch with Ian to talk about him being godfather to Lucifer, with little success. At the hunt, Rob proves something of a hero when he calms down Shula’s horse after its bridle broke and he returned home to cook an Italian meal, including home-made Focaccia (Jeremy Hardy joke: “Focaccia - bread with absolutely no interest in the Far East”).

But Helen isn’t hungry, as Pat brought some pasta over to the shop and Helen forgot that Rob was cooking. He isn’t happy, saying: “I distinctly told you I was going to cook.” He’s right Helen, he certainly did - I heard him. “What’s going on in your head?” Rob asks, angrily. In an attempt to placate him, Helen nibbles a bit of salad and she changes the subject, saying that she couldn’t help noticing from the bank statement that Rob had withdrawn £2,500 last month.

This doesn’t go down well with Rob, who snaps that Christmas is an expensive time. Helen points out that, if it hadn’t been for Peggy’s money, they would have gone overdrawn and wasn’t Peggy’s money going to be used towards a deposit on a house? Perhaps they shouldn’t buy expensive presents, like the necklace that Rob bought - at least not until he’s back in regular work? The arch-manipulator immediately turns the blame back on Helen by saying “That was a symbol of my love and now you’re throwing it back in my face. What’s the point? I want to treat you like a queen, buy you beautiful things, make you beautiful meals [and here he angrily throws his food in the bin]. I don’t know why I bother, I really don’t.”

Instead of making the point that she’d rather that Rob didn’t use her money to treat her like a queen, Helen goes to pieces and the conversation goes thus:
H: I’m sorry, darling, I’m so sorry.
R: Are you?
H: Yes, very sorry
R: We’ll leave it there and say no more. You can tell me how you got on with Ian - you did talk to him?
H: I’m sorry Rob, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

It obviously didn’t take the actress playing Helen long to learn her lines this week - on Wednesday, she did actually get to talk to Ian, although he only agreed reluctantly. After some small talk about the baby, she broaches the subject of him being a godfather and says that she wants him to be her friend. Ian tells her that she should have told him about Adam and Charlie and says, slowly and clearly: “I do not want to be your friend and there’s no way on earth I could be persuaded to stand as godfather to your and Rob’s child.” So that’s a no then, is it Ian? And Helen’s response, as Ian walks out? You guessed it: “Ian - I‘m sorry.”

Shortly afterwards, Helen is in the shop and is very indecisive when Clarrie, Susan and Fallon want to talk to her about joint promotions to stimulate trade for the cafĂ© and shop. Helen bursts into tears and (you’re not going to believe this) says “I’m sorry, everyone.”

Let’s hear it for Phoebe, who received an offer from Oxford, although she couldn’t bear to open the letter herself and was carrying it around for the best part of a day. Alex didn’t answer her numerous calls to come over and open it, so she asked Jenny to do it. Even then, Jenny’s response was “Oh Phoebe, I think you’d better read this for yourself” and we had to wait until the following day before we learned of the offer. Talk about milking the suspense!

Phoebe’s success, combined with the fact that Jen celebrated her 71st birthday last week, left Jen in reflective mood - looking back on her life, what had she actually achieved? Let’s think - she managed to nab a (probable) millionaire husband, brought up four children of her own; only three of who quickly escaped abroad, and also her husband’s love child. She’s never had to work (at least not since she hooked Brian) and has just had a state-of-the-art, megabucks kitchen fitted, which she didn’t have to pay for. Better than having to sleep on the streets, I would submit. Brian reassures her that she is the rock on which the family is built, and she is “gorgeous, clever and talented.” He could have added: “And you’re a superb cook, but so you should be, after what that bloody kitchen cost me.”

As we have said before, one thing that Jennifer isn’t very good at is judging potentially embarrassing situations, and she so often says the wrong thing. To celebrate her birthday, she is holding a family supper party and various members of the family are contributing dishes. Why? For what that kitchen cost, I’d expect it to come up with - and cook - the entire menu. Adam brings a cake that Ian has made and Brian wants to discuss the forthcoming Estate contract. Jennifer suggests that they invite Charlie to the supper, as it might be their last chance to say ‘goodbye’ before he is exiled to the frozen north. Brian points out that it is a family gathering and Jennifer says brightly: “You’d like him to come, wouldn’t you, Adam?” She doesn’t even notice that Adam doesn’t give her an answer, when he says “Shall I take Ian’s cake indoors?”

Earlier, we spoke of milking suspense. Phoebe’s offer had nothing on the ‘shall we, shan’t we?’ story of whether Brookfield should adopt Rooooth’s plans for the future. Without going through the tedious conversations, let’s rush through the highlights, day by day.

Sunday: Peggy notices that Jill is grinning like a cat that’s got the cream - is it a new man? No, it’s better than that, but Jill can’t tell anyone, although she does; first Peggy and then Brian. Rooooth asks David isn’t it exciting? In leaden tones, he says “Yes Rooooth, very exciting.”
Monday: Brian tells Jen that David asked him to keep the Brookfield news to himself (obviously he didn’t, but it doesn’t matter, as Jen’s head is full of Oxford - this is before we knew about Phoebe).
Tuesday: Rooooth notices that David isn’t doing handsprings and asks if he’s having second thoughts. “No, not at all.” is his unconvincing reply.
Wednesday: We were spared further procrastination.
Thursday: Rooooth confronts David, who confesses that he can remember all the births of the cows and they are like family, which would make Pip, Josh and Ben unhappy, if they heard it. Honestly! When there was the uncertainty about the cows’ future a few years ago, it was Rooooth who appeared to be in love with the bovines and now it’s David who’s cowlovesick. Rooooth says that he mustn’t go for the plan just to please her and, if he has doubts, they won’t do it.
Friday: A decision! Dave has gone through all the figures and he accepts that Rooth’s plan is the best way forward. “This isn’t your husband talking; it’s your business partner” he tells her. To celebrate, they walk up Lakey Hill, taking torches as it will be dark when they get to the top, and there are protestations of love and optimism for the future. Sadly, they are caught out by a flurry of snow and freeze to death in each other’s arms, unable to escape. Sorry, I got carried away there, although Friday’s episode did end with the couple racing to the top of Lakey Hill.

Toby had prepared a presentation for David and Rooooth, in which he invited them to invest in the Fairbrothers’ business, which would go global in five years. He makes the mistake of talking to David all the time and Rex realises that Rooooth is the person they should be addressing, as she asks all the awkward questions. For example, Toby, when making the case to be allowed to stay at Hollowtree, says “Most of our area is on a slope…” Rooooth interrupts with “Your area?” and Rex spends most of the meeting continually telling Toby just to shut up and listen. Wise words Toby - that’s your New Year’s resolution sorted; forget you were a banker and try a slice of humility for a change. What are the chances?

Friday, 8 January 2016

Bonus Posting: Do We Need A Rob Alert?

You may have read the comment shown below, posted by Sharon Clayton:

Love the Archers. But Rob and Helen story line is putting me off listening anymore. I just dip in and out. When will the writers realise! I’ve listened for 20 years. Can’t bear it anymore.

When long-standing Archers fans are driven to these desperate lengths, surely something needs to be done? From a self-interest perspective, if people stop listening to the Archers, then they won’t want to read this blog and we cannot have that. From the BBC’s point of view, they must want to retain as many listeners as possible.

Perhaps one solution is to have some sort of alert, or code, played at the beginning of each episode, or rather, those episodes where Rob is being his usual, nasty, manipulative self. That way, listeners like Sharon, who have reached the end of their tethers, can switch off before any significant harm is done and their blood will remain unboiled and their blood pressure will not go through the roof.

But what form should this warning take? One suggestion is to adopt the theme music of ‘Mastermind’ for Rob-contaminated episodes. Even the title (‘Approaching Menace’) seems appropriate. But if we adopt this, we may confuse those listeners not in on the secret, so perhaps we should retain the much-loved Barwick Green and slip the alert in between the end of the music and the beginning of the dialogue.

So what should the alert be? Obviously it needs to be instantly recognisable so that vulnerable listeners can dive for the off switch. One candidate is the Star Trek Red Alert Klaxon - this was successfully used by Neil several years ago as the ring tone when his mother-in-law phoned, and put the household on instant alert. For those of you interested, Neil’s tone for me was Bugs Bunny, saying “Ah, what a maroon!

This idea could be expanded - Rob is not the only character to annoy and exasperate Archers listeners - and we could have separate alerts for different characters. Rooooth would obviously be a mega sigh, possibly followed by “Oh Daaaavid”. For Lynda, I would advocate the sound of someone’s face being slapped; it’s got nothing to do with her character, it’s just something I’d like to do. Helen could be the recording made after Nick Clegg’s “I’m sorry” speech, in which he constantly apologises.
For Brian, I’d pick Leslie Phillips saying “Well hello” or “Ding Dong!” and Eddie could use his own phone ringtone of the Wurzels’s “I am a cider drinker”. Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain” would be perfect for Toby Fairbrother and no doubt you can think of many other examples for your own, unfavourite, annoying character. By adopting this policy, the BBC would reduce the number of listeners like Sharon who are giving up in despair and fewer people would throw their radios across the room in rage and frustration, so how about it?

The following has nothing to do with this article’s subject, but, while typing it, I was struck by the thought that we never hear a reference to a postman in Ambridge; we never hear letters dropping on to a door mat, not even when it’s somebody’s birthday. Even more strange, there never seems to be a postman visiting the post office in the village shop - surely somebody must collect the post sometime? If Ambridge wanted to reflect real life more accurately, every now and then we should hear the sound of a letterbox being opened, envelopes hitting the mat and a frustrated cry of “Not more bloody junk mail!”

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Anybody Want To Buy Some Cows?

Simon Williams (Justin Elliott)

We have had a few weeks of ‘can we keep the dairy herd going?’ at Brookfield, but on Wednesday, Justin Elliott dropped his bombshell over lunch with Brian. “I can rely on your total discretion?” Justin asks Brian, before telling him that Berrow Farm is going to have to be closed down, as it has lost £1.5 million over the past 12 months. Brian then demonstrates that he obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of the words ‘total discretion’ by telling Jennifer, adding that he was told “in absolute confidence” and she is not to tell anyone. The inability to understand words of more than two syllables is obviously endemic in the Aldridge family, as Jennifer asks “Not even Adam?” “Especially not Adam” Brian replies.

This happens on the day that Phoebe passed her driving test and Brian is less than congratulatory. “I suppose you’ll be wanting a car” the miserable sod says. When Phoebe leaves to tell her Dad the good news (at least she can count on him to say ‘well done’) Jennifer tells Brian off for his offhand attitude and asks if they have any champagne? Despite the fact that Lilian has been living with them for a few weeks, there is an unopened bottle and Jennifer suggests that they have a celebratory drink a bit later on.

So, that’s a couple of thousand (give or take those that were lost to botulism) bovines which will soon be on the market and, at the end of the week, we learn that it looks like they won’t be the only ones. Rooooth returns from New Zealand and is picked up from the airport on New Year’s Eve by Pip - David had his plaster cast removed the same day, but won’t be driving anytime soon. Pip tells her mother that David has put some champagne on ice, but she replies that all she wants is a cuppa and her own bed, the killjoy.

It was a bit of a Hogmanay wash-out for young Pip, as she was in great demand as a partner to go to the Young Farmers’ Ball; Toby had asked her and even Rex plucked up courage to invite her. Pip let him down lightly by saying that she had to pick up her mother, but this is spoiled later when, in conversation about how the Fairbrothers’ geese went down with diners at Lower Loxley (very nice, apparently), Elizabeth let slip that Pip had actually asked Matthew to go with her. As it turned out, Pip didn’t make the party, so everyone was disappointed.

There had been much discussion between Elizabeth and Shula about how down David appears to be and Liz suggests that it’s not just the farm, but he is wondering whether his wife wants out of Brookfield and their marriage. Elsewhere, Eddie and Joe speculate about the future, or otherwise, of the dairy herd at Brookfield and our tenters have never been so hooked as we wait for Rooooth to tell her family her thoughts. She takes her time about it and eventually Pip and David have to practically beat it out of her. It starts badly as, when David says he is hoping that things can get back to how they were before, Rooooth says ominously: “That can’t happen David.” She has had lots of things that she has had to work through and now she has a new perspective on things. For God’s sake get on with it, woman! Here’s David, wondering whether to advertise for a new wife, or to tell Pip to get another job, and Rooooth is keeping mum.

Eventually, Rooooth does spill the beans and outlines her vision for the future of Brookfield. “Do you think we should get out of milk?” David asks and we all hold our collective breath for the answer. There’s only so long that you can spin the tension out for and we have reached that point, I’m afraid, so, shorn of all the sighs, exclamations and sharp intakes of breath, Rooooth’s vision is, in essence, stay in milk, reduce costs (feed etc), sell off the cows and get some more (not so many) in - a breed that is better suited to grass feeding. Oh yes, and make them calve in spring, when the grass is more abundant. The yield would be less, but it will be profitable.

This causes consternation, as Rooooth and David have spent years improving the herd at Brookfield, plus the autumn calving (which they practice now) was Rooooth’s idea in the first place. Her answer to this was that she was mistaken and the current herd will fetch a good price and allow them to invest in new cows. Well, that was a waste of the last 20 years or however long, wasn’t it? David isn’t sure, but Pip thinks it will be a great step backwards, although she does say that she’ll sound out the idea with Matthew, who has had experience on a spring calving farm. I’d be quick, Pip, as if the herd is going to be reduced in size and Rooooth is back for good, then Matthew’s services won’t be required for much longer.

But is Rooooth back for good? David confides to her that he was worried about their future while she was away and worried how she was feeling about their life together. Rooooth tells him that he and she are part of the Brookfield tradition and that she wouldn’t swap him for anyone else. Looks like it’s time for us to slip the ‘Sorry You’re Leaving’ card back into the drawer, although I suppose we could always send it to the cows.

Elsewhere, Helen had the latest in a seemingly endless stream of scans and Rob is over the moon at how much his son has grown. Driving Helen home, he starts talking about possible names. Helen protests that they cannot possibly decide until the boy is born - she says she didn’t think of Henry’s name till she saw him - but Rob ignores her (surely not?) and says that he’s always liked the name Dominic, or how about Julian? Last week, we suggested Damien, but other names that spring to mind include Lucifer, Beelzebub or possibly Hellspawn. I suppose we could meet Rob halfway and go for Demonic? The talk turns to Godparents and Rob has a dig at Ian, saying that, as he hasn’t answered Helen’s repeated messages, it appears that it isn’t very high on his list of priorities. In, what for her, is an act of open rebellion, Helen tells him firmly: “Leave him to me Rob - I’ll talk to him, OK?”

Looking at some of the comments we have had, it appears that Rob is a shoo-in for the title of ‘Ambridge’s Most Hated’. And his actions last week aren’t going to win him any friends, either; firstly, he gets Helen to tell Pat and Tom that they would like Helen’s job at the shop to be a 50/50 job share. This is because Helen tends to overdue things and is very tired and they talked this over over Christmas. Of course they did. The next day, when Helen isn’t there, Rob tells Tom that it would make sense if his and Helen’s salaries were to be paid into their joint bank account.

There is a plethora of fruit at the shop and it appears that the New Year order was accidentally twice what it should heave been. Tom says Helen will be mortified (she placed the order) but Rob tells Tom not to mention it to Helen, as “she tends to beat herself up when she’s made a mistake.” Later on, Rob ‘accidentally’ lets it slip to Helen and she is at first adamant that she didn’t order that much, but Rob says that he checked with the wholesaler and that was what was ordered. Helen immediately goes into ‘how could I have made such a stupid mistake?’ mode, while Mr Nasty tells her “Don’t beat yourself up, darling.” I really hope that he gets his come-uppance pretty soon, as he’s making me angry - even more so when we learned that Rob didn‘t wake Helen up to see Henry opening his Christmas present.

Calendar Girls finished its run and the cast managed to get their own back on Jean (Prima Donna) Harvey by abstracting the knitting that she uses to preserve her modesty on stage, and shortening it somewhat, which caused her a few problems.

Finally, this time of year is a time to look forward and is a time of optimism. However, this should be tempered by keeping a hold on reality. At Grange Farm, Eddie is wondering whether to start rearing pigs (Oliver might have something to say about that) and Joe is in Grundy heaven; back at the farm where he belongs. The pair are drinking cider, but even his doesn’t excuse Joe’s wildly optimistic statement that “2016 is gonna be the year of the Grundys.” How likely is that? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience!