Ooh that sneaky Matt. Ignoring Lillian’s explicit instructions, he’s been leaning on the bar of the Bull pouring honeyed words (‘Poison!’ screeched Lillian) into Jolene’s unhappy ear. ‘Money,’ whispers Matt, who is wearing horns and a red cape. ‘No more responsibility.’ ‘Doing everyone a favour – housing stocks are low.’ And Jolene, who’s a right old misery-guts, yes I know she’s in mourning and has just had a bewildering kick-back from Kenton but honestly! She needs to get her mojo back sharpish or she is going to join my list of Archers Characters Who Will Be First Against The Wall When I’m In Charge. (Helen, Kate, Kathy, Christine, Daniel, Shula and Ruairi, thanks for asking.)
Where was I? Yes, Jolene, instead of telling him to sling his hook, which is a phrase much-used in Ambridge if nowhere else in the English-speaking world, says, ‘You might ‘ave a point there Matt,’ in her strange Memphis drawl and buggers off to see her financial adviser. As an aside, am I right in thinking that the same man plays all the incidental professionals in the Archers? He’s got a cushy thing going there: financial advisers, bankers, lawyers, BL Board members: I reckon he plays them all. I bet you ten pence he pops up as the coroner in the forthcoming inquest which Susan and Emma so clunkily explained to us the other day, Emma having found out about it via the traditional means of reading someone else’s important letter which just happened to be lying around.
I digress. Lillian gave Matt a right good kicking about trying to get Jolene to sell the Bull, and jolly realistic it was too. I do so love Matt and Lillian. I think they ought to have their own spin-off show, called Pusscat and Tiger, in which Matt keeps making dodgy deals and Lillian gets cross then forgives him because he’s such a loveable rogue. But Lillian needn’t have bothered getting a sweat up this time because I predict that there is no way the Bull will be sold off for housing. In fact I bet you another ten pence that it won’t (I’m feeling very gambly tonight). And that is because of one single compelling reason, outlined to me by my friend Fanoflinda, which is: People whose paths would otherwise never cross can meet in the Bull.
Nowhere else can such a disparate bunch come together as over a pint of Shires and one of Freda’s heart-attack specials. Yes, there’s the shop, and that’s why the shop won’t close either (viz. it became a community shop rather than a holiday flat), but the shop is the stage for a quite different set of characters. There’s the church, but that’s only for scenes in which Jenny and Alan patronise each other. There are village events such as the panto and bonfire night, but these are only occasional. There’s Grey Gables and Lower Loxley but they both have a completely fixed set of clientele, set many years back, and there’s as likely to be a scene with, say, Clarrie in Grey Gables as there is to find someone willing to get on the Lower Loxley roof and properly remove that pesky New Years banner.
I suppose this putative book-group which has taken as long to set up as it took Tolstoy to write War and Peace will be another venue for unlikely characters to liaise, but in practice we already know who’s going to be in this group, don’t we? Usha and Ruth aren’t going to ask Jazzer to join in with his opinion of 100 Years of Solitude, are they?
No, for sheer rendez-vous potential nothing beats the Bull. Where else would Peggy and Harry have been able to pursue their utterly fascinating internet-teaching storyline (what’s happened to that by the way? When’s Con the Yank going to storm the village green with a pair of silk stockings in his hand and evil intentions in his mind?) Where else can Tom and Brenda have awkward conversations with William and Ed? Hmm, I’m starting to think perhaps Matt has a point.
But no, only the other day we had Tony (also recently added to my list of ACWWBFATW for his appalling sycophancy to Helen), sharing a grandfatherly chat with Eddie and Neil and it was marvellous. I was praying for little Henry to get a dart through the head but you can’t have it all. Where else would these three meet? Eddie and Neil aren’t going to be found hanging around the organic shop; Tony’s not going to be chewing the fat, if you’ll pardon the expression, in Neil’s pig shed.
Ironically, given that he’s trying to shut it down, the Bull’s the main place where Matt meets other villagers. Matt’s got very few locations of operation, and these are: the Dower House, abroad (Paris this week, Costa Rica a while back), prison, and the Bull, where he usually orders a cup of coffee, oddly. Now the Dower House, abroad and prison really only allow Matt to have conversations with Lillian and, at a push, Brian and Jenny. But in the Bull he can bump into almost anyone. So in a confusing twist of logic, Matt can’t shut the Bull down as otherwise he will have no-one to talk to. And that, I believe, is QED.
Posted by Qwerty. See all Archers posts here.