So it has come to this. Social services. Called after Alice, the new alcoholic mother, threw a brick through the window of the community store after her stepmother, Susan Carter, refused to sell her a bottle of vodka. Without Joy’s panties – dumped in Lower Loxley Park after she offered to be a model for a life drawing class – May in Ambridge would have been pretty gloomy. Every time I hear the phrase “social services” I just think of the character. called Social Services in Wes Anderson’s 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom. Played by an ax-faced Tilda Swinton, she is the personification of grim bureaucracy, her words of doom (“juvenile shelter … electric shock therapy”) uttered in the most crispy New England. Maybe Swinton could melt in Ambridge and make a cameo, just as she did in that much-missed masterpiece, BBC Three’s mock rural documentary This Country.
Anyway, it all started, as it was planned, at the baptism of baby Martha. Alice was pissed off, a jumble of miniatures discovered in her purse by her husband Chris. Emma, Alice’s sister-in-law, who had spared years of bitterness for precisely such an occasion, shared her opinion with her. The truth of Alice’s addiction came painfully upon her mother, Jennifer, and the larger Aldridge family (or, that group of emotionally vacant losers, “as Emma described them). Well, on some of them. Her father, Arch-Capitalist Brian, is currently hiding in a very comfortable place called Denial. How is poor Jennifer doing? Obtuse at times, ridiculous certainly, she’s a bit of a snob, struggling to be linked by marriage to the Carters Below Salt (and by extension to the Horrobins, the closest Ambridge comes close to the characters of This Country). But she is a person of great inner strength, who takes care of her husband and her unbearable children, including the angry solipsist Kate and Adam, with admirable kindness. Not to mention the no-complaint evocation of Ruairi, the fruit of Brian’s curses. We feel that Jennifer will ultimately be Alice’s savior.
Talking Points: Is it okay to offer christening cookies decorated with a frosting portrait of the infant in question, effectively inviting your guests to bite a baby’s face? What’s the answer to the crossword clue Jim envisioned while guarding the store, shortly before Alice threw her brick? (“Several carrots are responding to calls for help.”) Is Lilian a functional alcoholic? And finally, why did coleslaw just become coleslaw ?, which I ask for Brian. Feel free to reply, wearily, with Fallon: “I don’t know, Brian. He just did.