24-hour party people
Not to be outdone by the War & Peace marathon on Radio 4, Ambridge celebrated New Year's Eve with the longest party – in fact four parties – in the history of radio soap. The young folk – Pip, Phoebe, Josh, Johnny and Dan – drank tequila slammers and played games with ice cubes at the Young Farmers' Apres Ski bash, while Brookfield played host to Carol and Lizzie for an evening of Jill's salmon vol au vents, Carol's lethal cocktails and Twister. Down at The Bull, Fallon and Harrison celebrated with a cheesy moonlit snog. Kenton has offered Fallon a chunk of the cash he's expecting from David, so she is looking forward to her 'best year yet' – and has joined the list of those who will be marching on Brookfield with flaming pitchforks once the sale falls through.
But the hot ticket in town was the Lower Loxley Ball, which made the last days of the Roman Empire look like a picnic at the WI.
First though there was the little matter of Helen acquiring a new personal stylist ...
'Who knew that mauve was my colour?'
|Rob presents his new women's daywear collection|
It's not true that Rob wants to keep Helen pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen – she's allowed out, as long as he chooses her outfits. He treated Helen to a spa day, Michelin-starred lunch and shopping trip, partly as a Christmas present, partly to reward her for 'stealing the show' in Blithe Spirit. (She didn't; thanks to Tristram 'the Hatchet' Hawkshaw we know that Susan and her tea tray did that, offering a 'masterclass in physical theatre'.)
In Borchester's finest ladies' outfitters, Rob turned his nose up at every party frock Helen suggested, finally insisting on a mauve, high-necked, long-skirted job that would prevent her being leered at by 'drunken louts' at the ball.
'I don't think there will be many of them at Lower Loxley', said Helen - wrongly, as it turned out, although it wasn't Helen they would be ogling…
'Fake snow, fondue and fit girls…
What's not to like?' That was the verdict of dashing Captain Dan, back from Sandhurst for the holidays, catching up with cousin Pip at the Young Farmers' party. We learned that Dan has a girlfriend ('nothing serious, she's a fellow cadet') Let's hope he soon brings her to the Stables for a trial-by-Shula's-lamb-casserole.
And sadly, Pip has left Spencer to plough a lonely furrow, as they don't share the same values: she wants to travel the world, 'getting inspired and perhaps transforming the way we do farming .. and that.' But Spencer is content to farm the way his parents do, and would be happy enough if Pip turned out like his mum. Poor Spencer.
Josh and his hair gel drank too much, threw up in the toilets and got tangled up in would-be girlfriend Sadie's hair extensions. Phoebe speculated that he's emotionally upset by the impending move north. 'He's got the nicest family - his mum and dad are out of an advert,' she told Johnny. 'My mum is so embarrassing - she keeps asking my mates to be friends with her on Facebook.'
You ain't seen nothing yet, Phoebe. Kate, having knocked back the vodkas at the Bull, charged off to Lower Loxley 'on a mission to get off her face' as her brother Adam delicately put it.
Kate had already dropped one bombshell on the Aldridges by announcing that she had applied for a place at Felpersham University to continue her studies in international development, and would be staying for at least a year, leaving her children with the long-suffering Lucas.
'Is there some kind of job at the end of this?' grumbled Brian, who was already testy because Pat had bought him a hideous jumper for Christmas.
'You're missing the point, Dad', said Kate. 'Phoebe needs me – and by the way, can I live in my old cottage?'
'Wearing a skirt is so freeing, isn't it Charlie?'
But we found out later (several bottles of Champagne later) that as usual, Kate had been economical with the actualité.
'I met someone, a young guy - we did sleep together a few times, but when Lucas found out it pushed our relationship over the edge', she confided in Adam, expecting him to join in her pity party.
'What is it with me and kids? I have them and do my best to love them, but it all goes wrong ..' she wailed, before spotting 'gorgeous man' Charlie and dashing off for some country dancing and flirting about his kilt.
Thanks to Kate, we know that Rob is also 'very good looking, but quite intense and serious-looking'.
Not surprising, as Heathcliff of the Heifers had a lot on his mind. Having softened Helen up with hot stone massages and allowing her just one glass of fizz at midnight, he pounced. 'I'd like us to have a baby,' he purred - 'so that we're a real family, not just a couple with a child.'
No doubt Helen was about to ask him why he wants to have a baby when they aren't yet married and he already has a perfectly good baby with his not-yet-ex-wife.
But she was distracted by a phone call from Tom, which she went out into the garden to take, where she saw ….
'I've waited for this for so long …'
Adam wasn't even planning to go to the Lower Loxley Ball. With Ian at work, he was anticipating an evening of single malt, cheese platter and Jools Holland's Hootenanny.
But Jennifer made him take Kate along, and what do you know? There's Charlie, looking all winsome in his family tartan and making it clear to Adam (by way of some convoluted metaphor about a job interview) that Charlie is a man who Goes With His Gut and Gets What He Wants. And he does, in the romantic, darkened grounds of Lower Loxley, where Helen stumbles across them…
'What the hell is going on?' she yells, but it is a question the Ambridge Observer cannot answer as our reporter had to make her excuses and leave.
Will Adam make his early flight to Miami, for two weeks' well-earned holiday with Ian? Will Helen say yes to having a titchy Titchener? Will Phoebe find Kate passed out in Jennifer's walk-in wine fridge? So much to look forward to in 2015!
Roy Tucker's New Year's Eve
Approx 8.30pm: 'Phoebe - Phoebe, it's your dad. I expect you're out somewhere, but I just wanted to wish you Happy New Year… Bye bye Phoebe; see you soon I hope.'
Approx 11pm: 'Hayley - Hayley, are you there? It's me (sob). I just want to say I'm so sorry… (sob) I'm sorry, I really am'
Approx 12.30am: 'Elijjabeff? Lijshsbuff? It's me, it's me….' (wail).
Happy New Year Roy!