Friday, 29 February 2008
Sunday, 24 February 2008
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
They had one of those conversations that go: “I don’t know what the world’s coming to, I really don’t”.
“It’s being a funny old year,” said Henry. “These terrible riots and a royal wedding. I was reading summat in the Courier the other day about the ’60s and how they’ve caused a lot of the current unrest.”
“Now that’s near sighted, that is,” said Sam. “It’s not a single decade that’s done this, it’s two world wars in one century, close together. It’s shaken everything up, people have lost sight of what’s right…” he shook his head, sadly.
“It just seems to get worse and worse, though,” said Henry. “Hippies, these Punk Rockers, and I saw a fella on the telly t’other day with a white line painted across his face and these funny little plaits and ribbons in his hair - couldn’t properly tell if he were Arthur or Martha!”
“You’re getting old, Henry!” Annie smiled. “But I must admit these riots are very troubling. They reckon it’s not only unemployed people joining in the looting…”
“Anarchy in the UK at last!” laughed Joe in reply, coming in for a morning cuppa. The gathering gloom was suddenly dispelled.
“Tea or coffee, Joe?” asked his mother.
“Ooh, tea please.” Joe sat down and attacked a piece of parkin. “Talking of things in the news, Henry, how’s Amos getting on with the Cube contest? I saw Ernie Shuttleworth in’t village this morning - he’s looking very confident!”
Henry sighed and rubbed his wrist. “Well, there’s one thing, I’m out of it. I’ve strained my wrist trying to do the blessed thing! And I did do it, an’ all!”
“You did!” Joe gaped. “You kept it quiet!”
Henry nodded: “Yesterday. I Followed this book by a thirteen-year-old lad. A thirteen-year-old, I ask you! I did it, but it took me nearly an hour. I certainly wasn’t championship material even before I ricked my wrist. And Amos gets nowhere near even doing a side of the thing! He’s like a soul demented. There’s not a minute’s peace. He’s got umpteen cubes, and umpteen books and magazines on how to solve the thing. He’s tried smearing them with Zam Buk, lard, butter, even got a bottle of vegetable oil in specially. He’s determined not to face the fact that we’re no competition for’t Malt Shovel.” Henry sighed and decided a change of subject was called for. “How are things at NY, Joe?”
“Busy,” said Joe. “And there’s an awful lot of them Rubik’s Cubes about amongst the estate workers, Henry. They’re provin’ to be a bit of a distraction.”
So much for a change of subject!
Henry sighed again: “I know. Amos has been through our NY regulars with a fine toothcomb seekin' a Cubist - he was on at Jim Brett last night, and you know how shaky he is.”
“He’s retiring next year,” said Joe. “Shame in some ways. Damn good cowman.”
“I knew his father, William Brett,” Sam chipped in. “Wonderful with cattle ’e were - told the vet a thing or two on many occasions. You remember William Brett, don’t you, Annie?”
“Aye, Dad, I do - a lovely man,” said Annie.
“Good cowman, eh? We could do with somebody as good with the Cube,” said Henry mournfully. “Because Amos won’t leave go. He’s fixated. You know how he gets. It’s ‘Cube, Cube, Cube’ from morning till night with him. Even the Royal Wedding seems to have passed him by.”
“Who is the Malt Shovel Cube chap, then?” asked Annie.
“Bernie Slater,” Henry replied, gloomily.
“Bernie Slater?!” Annie was startled. “But I’ve never known him to take interest in owt like that before. I wouldn’t imagine it was his type of thing at all.”
“Me neither,” Joe agreed. “He used to scare the wits out of us when we were kids, great gangling bloke… we used to think he was really creepy, the way he used to sit there outside Malt Shovel, starin’ into space, waitin’ for openin’ time…”
“He’s doo-lally - allus ’as been,” said Sam. “Runs in’t family. His mother…”
“Now, Dad, you speak no evil!” Annie broke in.
Sam subsided back into his chair. “I wasn’t going to, Annie! But it’s not speakin’ evil to tell’t truth and Mary Slater spent a lot of her adult years in Hotten Mental Hospital, as well you know!”
“Well, whatever his background, he certainly knows how to do the blasted Cube,” said Henry. “Ernie Shuttleworth brought him in the other day to give us a demonstration. You’re right, Joe, I’ve never seen him close up before, but he does seem a little on the odd side. Hardly spoke a word and his forehead really bulged with concentration whilst he was twisting the Cube about. Looked quite startling. He’s not real championship material, mind, wouldn’t get on the telly or owt like that, but three minutes and eighteen seconds is good by Beckindale standards - and that was his time at the Woolpack t'other day. Mind you, I know some of the youngsters round ’ere are a lot faster.”
“Shame Andy Longthorn’s too young to drink at the Woolpack,” said Joe. “I gave him a lift up to Lower Hall Farm a few days back and he did the Cube right in front of my eyes: 56 seconds. His hands were just a blur.”
“Hasn’t Ernie Shuttleworth asked to see the Woolpack champion?” asked Sam.
“Oh aye,” Henry shook his head. “But Amos just says: ‘Our champion will be revealed all in good time,’ - he’s bluffing for England!”
“Wish my eyes were better, I'd have a go,” said Sam, who had forgotten about his earlier negative stance regarding the Cube and adults taking an interest in it. He was now simply concerned that the honour of the Woolpack should be upheld.
“Never mind,” said Henry, brightening a little, as Annie poured him another mug of tea and offered the plate of parkin to him for a second time. “Amos’ll have to give up sooner or later. Then we can all get some peace!”
At the Woolpack, things were very quiet. Truth to tell, people were a little tired of Amos wittering on about the Rubik’s Cube and trying to get them to have a go at it. In the absence of anything better to do, Amos was moaning at Walter, his only customer that morning.
“It’s just like Mr Wilks, “ he was saying. “Just when I need support, he lets me down. He manages to do the Cube, then goes and hurts his wrist before he can get his speed up. I could’ve coached him, Walter, but no, ’e ’as to go rickin’ his wrist. Now I don’t know where to turn. And it has to be a regular for’t contest…”
“So it ’as, Amos!” said a voice behind him. Amos whipped round to find Seth Armstrong grinning at him.
Amos was not keen on Seth. For years, Seth’s local had been the Malt Shovel and Amos had rarely seen him. But he’d started popping into the Woolpack a year or two back, and had soon become a fully-fledged regular. This did not please Amos. He strongly suspected that everything Seth did was done simply to annoy him.
Amos was sharp: “What are you doin’, creepin’ up on me, Seth Armstrong?!”
“I weren’t creepin’ up on nawbody,” said Seth. “This is a public ’ouse and I’m a member o’t public. I’m entitled to come in. And don’t forget, I’m a regular, Amos, a regular! And you need a regular to ’elp you out of your current predicament wi’t Cube contest.”
“The matter is entirely in hand,” said Amos, loftily.
“That’s not what I’m ’earin’,” Seth grinned. “Tha’s a stubborn cuss, Amos Brearly! Now then, I can solve all your problems and the Woolpack needn’t lose face. What do you say?”
“Stop wastin’ my time, Seth Armstrong, that’s what I say!” Amos huffed. “Now are you havin’ a drink or aren’t you? Because if not I’d thank you to…”
“Watch this!” Seth broke in. He took a scrambled Rubik’s Cube from his pocket and began to twist it. Despite himself, Amos was riveted by the wily gamekeeper’s turn of speed. He’d recently seen somebody doing the Cube on the telly, and had been fascinated by the speed with which it was done. Now, in front of him, Seth’s hands became a blur…. Crrrk, crrk, crrk, crrk, went the Cube as it was twisted and turned. The bar was absolutely silent apart from that sound. And suddenly a completed Cube was resting on the bar top. Seth gazed at it with pardonable pride.
Amos was amazed. Even Walter looked rather startled.
“Well, Amos, what do you say? Shall I be Woolpack champion for thee?” asked Seth.
When Henry returned to the Woolpack an hour or so later, he found a very different Amos to the angst-ridden one he’d left. This one was light hearted and carefree, happy as a skylark. He wasted no time in filling Henry in on developments.
“Seth can do the Cube? Since when?” Henry boggled.
“That doesn’t matter, Mr Wilks - fact is he can,” said Amos. “He did it in front of me and Walter twice. Each time in less than a minute! And he’s going to represent Woolpack at the contest. Now, what do you say to that?”
“I say 'thank ’eavens for that!’” said Henry, with a great deal of feeling. “This has been the longest fortnight of my life, Amos. Get day after tomorrow here and it’ll all be over.”
Suddenly Henry chuckled.
“Summat tickled you, Mr Wilks?”
“I was just thinking how ironic it is that Seth’s turned out to be your saviour!” Henry began to laugh outright.
The merest trace of a frown crossed Amos’ brow. “Aye, well, I'll admit I’d rather it weren’t Seth Armstrong doin’ the honours. But I also have to admit, Mr Wilks, he’s saved the honour of the Woolpack.”
"Well, let this be a lesson to you, Amos, no more of these contests,” said Henry. “I can do without them - this one has put ten years on me! And look at all these Cubes and Cube-solvin’ books and magazines layin’ about - on the bar, under the bar, all over’t livin’ room. I sat on a cube last week. I’ve still not recovered. Once the contest’s out o’t way I never want to see another Cube or Cube book again. Ever!"
At 10.30pm, a very merry Seth left the Woolpack Inn, bound for home. He was grinning, some mean sprited souls might say, like an idiot. The soft scented breeze and glorious summer evening heightened his sense of wellbeing. He’d been very popular that night. The Woolpack regulars had been so pleased that somebody could at last do the cube and had got Amos off their backs that many a pint of Monk’s best had been placed before him on the bar top, free, gratis and for nothing.
Seth lurched slightly as he crossed Main Street and steadied himself against the post office wall. The blissful summer evening breeze brought a sound to his ears. Was it an owl? No… no... it was a voice… “What’s a matter, you? HEY! Gotta no respect?” it went. It was coming from behind him. He began to turn. Slowly and carefully. The voice was suddenly louder. It was in his ear: “Shadduppa your face!” And then there was blackness.
The traumas continue as we take the 1981 time tunnel back to Beckindale again soon...
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
The newspaper gossip was fast and furious - how much was Frazer Hines being paid to return to the show? What about Ian Sharrock's wedding?
Journalists were now aware that articles featuring behind the scenes rumour and gossip from Emmerdale Farm helped to sell newspapers. The show had well and truly "arrived"!
Sunday, 10 February 2008
In 1985, his return heralded more trouble for Matt and Dolly - Mowlam made improper advances to Dolly and, shortly afterwards, she suffered a miscarriage. Mowlam had other irons in the fire - he was one of the crooks in a storyline about a security van robbery, which spilled over into 1986. After the robbery, Mr Mowlam was murdered by his associate Derek Warner, who ended up holding the vicar, the Reverend Donald Hinton, hostage at gunpoint.
Whilst Derek Warner seemed a sad, desperate and inadequate man, worthy of some sympathy at least, Harry Mowlam had been a complete and utter swine and was not mourned in Beckindale.
Matt Skilbeck was originally accused of Mowlam's murder, and the threat of a prison sentence hung over him until the true culprit was discovered.
Matt found it difficult to join in the celebrations which followed. Why should he celebrate the fact that his liberty was no longer threatened when it should never have been threatened in the first place? He brooded long and hard, but finally bucked his ideas up when he realised the effect his depression was having on those closest to him, particularly Dolly.
Note: Emmerdale Farm was still being shown at 5.15pm in the Anglia TV region and was returning for a "new series".
Friday, 8 February 2008
The balloon goes up at Beckindale Fete as Seth sets out to prove that Amos' tales of daredevil flying are so much hot air.
From the same edition of the Sun - what's all this about Amos, Seth and a dead rabbit?! Does any reader know the full details of this and/or the 1988 Beckindale Fete episode? If so, please drop me a line!
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
"I may not know much, but I know all about flowers! 'Supersede all other seeds,' as soon as Jack said that, I knew it couldn't be beat." He turned to Pat: "So, half of it's yours and half of it's Jack's and you must have a lovely holiday between you!"
But Pat refused. She was worried about Sandie who, having broken the news of her pregnancy, had gone to stay with her father. Pat wanted to remain at home in case she was needed in any way.
"Give her time, Dad, it hasn't been easy," said Annie.
As for the cruise, Annie and Sam decided they would go together, if that was all right with the others.
Annie was delighted to see her father in such good spirits. The news of Sandie's pregnancy had made Sam very unhappy - he was fond of the girl and very concerned for her. Annie was glad that something had put the spring back in his step.
It turned out he'd won one of fifty tricycles as a runner-up in the Shepherd's Super Seeds competition. "That'll just suit me, with my balancing!"
Of course, Amos couldn't resist puffing himself up a little: "I just knew that little rhyme of mine would catch their eyes! You thought I couldn't find a rhyme for that, didn't you?"
"A rhyme for what?" asked Mr Wilks.
"Horticulture, Mr Wilks, horticulture - Shepherd's Super Seeds! 'Considering gardening at this juncture, you can't beat Shepherd's Super Seeds for horticulture'! I knew that was a winner as soon as I thought of it!"
Well, it certainly deserves summat," said Mr Wilks. He reminded Amos that he was only a runner-up, an "also ran", but Amos was not to be deterred - a winner was a winner!
Then another thought struck him: "Sam Pearson's going to take this hard - me being a prize winner! Well, he went in for the competition an' all!"
"I'd have thought that meant he was a walker!" laughed Pat, who was doing some hand washing at the sink.
"Hmm," Sam decided to ignore that. "And it says you should only drink bottled or boiled water."
" Dad, this was written in 1870!" said Annie.
"That doesn't matter! The desert hasn't changed, has it? I mean, the Sahara's still there?"
"It's the Canaries, Dad, and we're going on a ship - a modern ship."
"Annie, it says a day in Casblanca. Now, that's in Africa, isn't it? And it's near the desert!"
"I hope not!" said Sam
Meanwhile, Amos was thrilled with his tricycle. It had been expected in some quarters that he might be more than a little jealous of Sam's prize winning success, but not Amos - the tricycle had gripped his imagination, as things tended to do, and he was as pleased as could be.
"You make a fine sight on that!" said the vicar, the Reverend Donald Hinton, meeting Amos in the village one morning.
"Aye, it's the extra wheel, you see - lending not only balance, so you can't fall off it, but making it look right - like it's meant to have a body on it," explained Amos.
"I see," smiled Mr Hinton.
"And it's safe, you feel quite safe with this," Amos continued. "Not vulnerable and you can take a look around at things without wobbling."
"Yes, you did have a wobble on the other, I had noticed." said Mr Hinton.
"Aye, I always did have a wobble. I always used to say, 'Put me on a bike and you have a wobble'. Not with this, on this I never wobble!"
The intrepid travellers were only away for a few episodes, but life didn't stand still. In their absence, Jack and Jackie became closer and Pat deserted her disliked (and not terribly successful) duties at the Aga to help out on the farm - which rather took Jack aback.
When the travellers returned, they declared that they'd had a lovely time.
And one of the first things Sam did was to pop round to the Woolpack to show Amos his holiday snaps.
Monday, 4 February 2008
Henry looked doubtfully at the small plastic cube, composed of even smaller plastic cubes, six different colours, sitting on the bar top. “They do? Who’s they?”
“Those in the know,” said Amos, puffing himself up. “The trend watchers at the Courier. We’re in for a fascinating new era, Mr Wilks, a fascinating new era of computers and microbe technology. The Year 2000’s just round the corner.”
Henry let the “microbe” and the fact that the Year 2000 was in fact nineteen years away pass without comment, and picked up the cube. “So, what do you do with it?”
“You twist it,” said Amos.
Henry gingerly tried to twist the cube. Crrrk, it went.
“Hmm, very impressive,” said Henry. “You could amuse yourself for hours. Pretty colours!”
Amos sniffed. “Mr Wilks, I’d thank you not to poke fun at what you don’t understand. That cube is a mathematical masterpiece. It’s got…. Oh, BILLIONS of combinations and you’ve got to get each side ’t same colour.”
“Oh, I see!” Henry was grateful for the chink of light. “Well, why didn’t you say so? Bit like one o’ them Chinese puzzles, isn’t it? Piece of cake, Amos. I’ll have it done in no time…”
“Where’s Henry?” asked Joe Sugden some hours later, lifting a foaming pint pot of Monk’s finest to his parched lips.
“He’s in’t back,” said Amos. “Trying to do the Rubik Cube.”
“Oh, you’ve got one of them things!” Joe grinned. “There’s a couple going around amongst the Estate workers. They reckon it’s going to be the next big thing.”
“I reckon they’re right. Mind you, us journalistic types have to keep our finger on the pulse of events, so to speak,” said Amos, puffing himself up a little. “It’s come from’t behind’t Iron Curtain, Joe. Imagine that!”
Henry appeared from the back room.
“Henry, I hear you’ve been doing one of them cube thingies,” called Joe cheerfully. “Have you managed it?”
“No I have not!” said Henry, uncharacteristically sharp. “Three hours and not even one side done. And yet it looks so easy… like a tiny tot’s toy!”
“I told you, Mr Wilks!” said Amos, “I said, didn’t I, as ’ow it were mathematical? Work o’ genius, I’ve heard. It takes a special kind of mind to work out all the perlitations.”
Henry let “perlitations” pass. “And I suppose you have that kind of mind?” he queried.
“Eh?!” Amos hadn’t anticipated this.
“The cube - you can do it,” Henry elaborated obligingly.
“Aye, well… I haven’t done yet,” Amos admitted. “But I only got it yesterday. I’ve not had time to get to grips with it, as it were. But I’ve a very logical mind, you know that, Mr Wilks… Now then, Walter, another pint is it?” He escaped, gratefully.
Henry and Joe chuckled together.
Over the next couple of months, the Rubik’s Cube did indeed become the “next big thing”, just as Amos’ source at the Hotten Courier had predicted. The craze gripped local school kids the most - and it was reckoned that Andy Longthorn could “do” the cube in 53 seconds. There was some interest amongst the elders of Beckindale.
“People have got far too much time on their hands, that’s the trouble!” said Sam Pearson, “Getting all het up over kiddies’ toys - whatever next!”
Amos, who had been toying with a Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles cube behind the Woolpack counter bridled. “It’s got some of the world’s finest brains baffled!” he said.
“Well, Sharon Henshaw from below Demdyke can do it and, good girl though she is, I’d hardly call her a genius,” said Sam. “She’s only nine-years-old!”
“Amos has a book on the subject - and we still can’t do it,” said Henry. “I can manage one side, but that’s it.”
Amos glowered at him for this piece of treachery - fancy telling Sam Pearson that! It was at this point that Seth Armstrong came in. “Can I have a word, Amos?”
“I’m busy!” Amos snapped. “Mr Wilks will serve you!”
“I’ve a message for you from’t Malt Shovel,” said Seth, gravely.
“And what have you been doin’ at the Malt Shovel?” Amos demanded
“Oh, I ’aven’t been in,” said Seth quickly. “I saw Ernie Shuttleworth in’t post office just now.”
“Well, what’s this message?” Amos sniffed.
“I’d tell you, Amos, but I’m a bit parched,” said Seth. “I got all the way up to Primrose Dingle this mornin’ and found me flask ’ad sprung a leak. I’ve ’ad nowt to drink since breakfast…”
He made strange rasping noises deep in his throat to labour the point.
Amos was not about to submit to this outrageous piece of blackmail, but Henry stepped in. “Have a pint with me, Seth.”
“That’s right kind of yer, 'Enry,” said Seth, beaming. “You’ve a good ’eart, so you ’ave. Our Meg were only sayin’ this mornin’…”
“Never mind all that,” said Amos, icily. “You said you ’ad a message from Ernie Shuttleworth.”
“Oh, aye, that’s right. Now what were it now…” Seth was thoroughly enjoying Amos’ agony of curiosity. “Oh, that’s it - he wants to hold a contest wi’t’ Woolpack - Rubik Cube, he sez. Reckons he’s the got the champion Cubist of Beckindale as a regular at t’ Malt Shovel.”
“A contest?!” Amos made it sound obscene.
“Aye, that’s right - his best Cube man against Woolpack’s best Cube man,” said Seth and took a long swig of his pint.
“But we ’aven’t got…” started Henry.
Amos broke in: “Ahem, Mr Wilks! Tell Ernie Shuttleworth if he wants to ring me here we’ll confirm the details, Seth Armstrong. I‘m sure these licenced premises can hold their own in any contest wi’t Malt Shovel!”
Henry was agape: “But Amos!”
“I got the potatoes like you asked, Mr Wilks,” Amos was being very cool. “So if you want to make a start on the shepherd’s pie…”
“Annie’s recipe is that?” asked Sam.
“That’s right,” said Amos. “Mr Wilks?”
Henry sighed. “Oh, all right!” But as he went through to the back room to begin his task, he was sure of one thing: the Woolpack had no “champion Cubist” amongst its regulars. Henry was the best at the Cube in that establishment, and he could only complete one side of the blasted thing. What on earth was Amos playing at?
And, truth to tell, as Amos held his head high and discussed the virtues of Annie’s shepherd’s pie recipe with Sam, he didn’t really know either.
But if the likes of Ernie Shuttleworth thought they were going to get the better of him in any way, shape or form, they had another think coming!
Meanwhile, one of the Cubes sat happily beside old Walter’s pint pot, a multi-coloured jumble. It kept catching Amos’ eye, and finally he tucked it away under the bar. If he hadn’t known better, he would have sworn it was mocking him. It looked so simple, as Mr Wilks had said, just like a tiny tot’s toy. “Come on, solve me - surely you can?” it seemed to be saying.
And yet nobody at the Woolpack could.
And now Amos had committed the pub to a contest with the Malt Shovel, and Ernie Shuttleworth was bragging of having a “champion cubist” supping there.
Amos groaned inwardly: “Oh ’eck!”
PART TWO COMING SOON! Read the history of the Rubik's Cube here.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
1988, you cry - but Zak wasn't in Emmerdale in 1988. True, actually. But Steve Halliwell was cropping up as Stephen, a bit-part character in Brookside, who seemed amazingly like Zak. He's seen above, being roughed up by Bobby Grant - played by Ricky Tomlinson (later Jim Royle in the Royle Family).
It wasn't a long story. Our Sheila, played by Sue Johnston (later Babara Royle in the Royle Family), had been out on the town with her pal Kathy Roach, played by Noreen Kershaw (formerly Lynne Harrison in Albion Market).
The jolly lads got the same bus home as the ladies, after silly Kathy told them that their husbands were away working on oil rigs (which, incidentally, Ron Brownlow, Ian's Crossroads character had spent a spell doing).
On arrival in Brookside Close, Steve and Greg woke the neighbourhood, trying to get the ladies to let them into the house for a drink. Which led to the arrival of Sheila's angry husband, Bobby. No harm was done, Billy Corkhill broke up the brawl.
But the evening did a great deal to end the marriage of Sheila and Bobby Grant.
Zak Dingle still lay several years ahead for actor Steve Halliwell. But for that one episode of Brookside, a prototype Zak was strutting his stuff and coming unstuck.
Recommended viewing for all Zak fans!