Category Archives: The Archers

The Archers: Things that are currently baffling me

Obviously there are many long-term and ongoing baffling things about the Archers, not least of which is, what is the point of Christine Barford, and why am I still listening after all these years. But over the last few months there have been so many baffling plot elements – considerably more than usual, I warrant – that most episodes end with me shaking my head in confusion. Which, to be fair, makes a nice change from shaking it in anger/despair, as is usual. So here we go. As at 19th June, 2014, these are the key things I don’t understand.

Image1. Why have all the younger generation been summarily dispatched?
It’s like Logan’s Run in reverse, down Ambridge way. No-one’s allowed in under the age of forty. First Pip was sent to Yorkshire, and nary a (Pip) squeak out of her thereafter (believe me, I’m not complaining). Next, Amy vanished into the NHS underworld. Then Brenda, after dumping Tom and having crazy Russian adventures that only happened on Ambridge Extra, not in real life, shacked up with some fancy-pants new boyfy down in that London. She reappeared briefly, and pointlessly, to show off her Liz Taylor-style rock and set tongues a-wagging that she caused the collapse of the Tom/Kirsty ménage.
Which brings me to Tom and Kirsty, who looked for some time like the inheritors of the series, and who fell apart so spectacularly that I imagine the Archers writers are gutted that they wasted the ‘shocks Ambridge to the core’ strapline on that posh bloke, can barely remember him now, who slid off the roof a few years back.
Phoebe’s been struck dumb, Will’s largely AWOL apart from the Obligatory Conversation With Charlie (see 4 below), and even Emma, who was previously never more than three whines away from popping up in a storyline, has gone shtum. Whither Alice, Christopher and Jamie, eh?
My bafflement is this: when the old guard dies, who’s going to be left? I’m with the Archers through thick and thin – sick and sin – but even I might struggle to stay with a showcase for Ed, Jazzer and Fallon.

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The Archers: Stop saying Jess is nice, it isn’t fooling anyone.

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Thumper: ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.’
Bambi: ‘I don’t care! Jess is awful! There, I said it!’

God knows, I love the Archers. I listen to it religiously (in that I pray a lot during it, mainly in the hope that Shula and Helen will be absent and Kate will have contracted a fatal disease). I’ve listened to it for years. Hot damn, I just worked out how many years, then hastily calculated the percentage of my life given over to this dementedly b-movie soap, and had a little cry. Hang on, though, I’ve just remembered that I’m always doing something else while TA is on – loading the dishwasher, for instance, or ironing, eating supper, or having sex – so in fact it’s not been time wasted at all. Phew. I’ll wipe my tears and get on with it.

So yes, I adore TA. But there is one teensy little thing that makes me cross, yes, only one, or at least, only one that I am going to focus on right now. And that is the pitiful attempts of the script-writers to try and force us to have particular opinions about characters, when clearly we are grown-up enough to make up our own minds. The most recent and egregious example of this concerns bloody Jess, Rob’s slightly-estranged wife, who’s finally been cast, I mean, finally turned up in Ambridge.

Sidebar: Blimey, that Rob can’t half pick ‘em! I mean, Helen AND Jess? And yet he apparently has enough physical va-va-voom to be cast as sexy Robin Hood, so could surely bag someone decent.

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The Archers: Why Pusscat and Tiger mustn’t split

Image SPOILER ALERT: If you’re an Omnibus listener and you haven’t yet heard the one on Sunday 2nd December, there is a spoiler in the first paragraph. Though you probably won’t be that surprised by it, tbh.

So after months (or years? It felt like years) of Lilian and Paul meeting clandestinely in little tea-rooms for tete-a-tetes in which NOTHING whatsoever happened, they finally shagged. I’d like to say it was a surprise but the only surprise was that it took so long. Though when it finally happened, it was kind of abrupt.

  • Lilian: “Usual dreary chit-chat hinting at unhappiness with Matt.”
  • Paul: “ Usual dreary platitudes hinting how much better it would be with him instead of Matt.”
  • Listener: “Zzzz”
  • Lilian: “Let’s go to your hotel room.”
  • Listener, waking up and spilling tea: “Hey what?!”

Anyway, once the relief of a plot having moved forward was over – a relief so rarely experienced by Archers listeners – the panic set in. OH LILIAN! What about Tiger?? Matt and Lilian are by far and away my most favourite couple on the Archers. Whenever they share airtime you know you’re in for a treat. He growls away, tiger-ishly, like a middle-management Reggie Kray, alternately treating Lil like dirt or whisking her off to Lower Loxley when she needs to be distracted from some naughty thing he’s done. She, purring or letting rip her filthy forty-a-day laugh, tells Matt exactly how she feels, all the time. Both actors sound like they’re a gnat’s crotchet away from bursting into giggles. I love them so much. If they split up (NO!) and Lilian gets together with the too-good-to-be-true Paul, one of the great soap partnerships will be crushed, like Nigel after he messed up his Chim-Chim-Cheree roof routine.

More to the point, it will be the demise of the only couple in which I properly like both partners. There aren’t any others. Look!

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The Archers: The Archers Pause

The Archers is currently running two stressful storylines (s.s.). We all find different things stressful, of course. My high watermark of nerve-wracking  entertainment is the movie Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which I can only tolerate if I’m feverishly drunk. It’s all those misunderstandings, the will they won’t they get together, the nearly and almost, that do me in. (Spoiler: they fall in love eventually, though not before your correspondent is a wrung-out wreck. An inebriated wrung-out wreck.)

The first s.s. in the Archers’ current roster is the clunkily-written and embarrassingly-acted David and Ruth being menaced thing, which consists of the following: a baddie (you know he’s a baddie because he’s played by someone who sounds like Clive Horribin, in fact he might well be Clive Horrobin as there isn’t really room for more than one baddie in Borsetshire), phones up and says something mildly threatening. David and Ruth then panic and buy security cameras even though we thought they’d spent all their money on the Olympic-style opening ceremony  for their new slurry tank, which featured poetry from Bert Fry and cup-cakes. Sometimes when I write about the Archers I can scarcely believe my own eyes at the words that come out.  Did we really listen to a slurry tank party? Anyway, then there’s some stuff about how Josh/Ben (interchangeably annoying boys) want to ride their bikes to Hollerton and Ruth/David (interchangeably annoying parents) are worried in case the phone baddie does something bad off the phone. See? Stressful. Josh’s acting, in particular.

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The Archers: I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky

SPOILER ALERT! Contains speculation about future plot twist that actually you have probably also guessed, as I have, because it’s not exactly been foreshadowed in particularly subtle a fashion.

What I love about the Archers is the way they can so easily wrong-foot me.  I’d just settled in for the duration, expecting nothing more from the next few weeks than a boring string of episodes about Cloive being dull-ly menacing, the Bridge Farm rebranding, and Linda’s death-where-is-thy-sting Christmas show. Then they sprang a Kylie/Sharon/John reversal on me and it got all interesting again.

For those of you who had better things to do than listen to the Archers when you were young, here’s a quick primer on these unfamiliar characters. Back in the day, a young slapper named Sharon with a cracking West Country burr lived in a caravan in Ambridge. She was the type who called people ‘Moi bird, moi duck, moi lover,’ when she was just buying fags down the shop. Her small daughter was called Kylie (pronounced ‘Koylie’), which dates it. I must have missed the episode in which this child was revealed to have been fathered by Cloive (pronounced ‘Cloive’).  Who knows, perhaps I one time went clubbing instead of sitting under a duvet with a transistor radio pressed to my ear.

Anyway, Sharon had long-eschewed Cloive and was having an unpopular affair in her caravan with John Archer, son of Pat and Tony, who some years later had a series of misadventures, nearly married Hayley, then slipped underneath a large Massey Ferguson and thus never had to hear his sister Helen whinge again. Are you still with me? Any road up, long before John got tractored, Sharon had packed up her lovely accent and her daughter and disappeared, much to my chagrin, as she was – remains to this day – the only character I could reliably imitate. When in my cups I can sometimes do Joe Grundy saying ‘afternoon,’ but there’s little call for it, I’ll be honest with you.

So imagine my delight when, after all these years, Susan rang Sharon last week to tell her that Ivy had snuffed it. Ivy being Cloive’s ma, she was thus Koylie’s grannie, not that she’d had much (anything?) to do with her. I had a quiet little wake all by myself when I realised they’d got some Equity Card-punching  nonentity to play Sharon, rather than the real Sharon, and her accent WASN’T RIGHT so no-one would be impressed at the accuracy of my take-off this time round. Not that they were last time now I think on. But I soon got over it when Koylie popped up, being all grown-up now, a student, how time flies etc, and having a good old shout at Cloive at the funeral for being the crappest dad this side of Felpersham.

And then, to runneth my cup right over, Pat started asking pointed questions about the age of Koylie’s younger brother and I realised with heart-stopping delight that this must mean JOHN FATHERED A BABY WHICH NO-ONE KNEW ABOUT! Or Pat’s barking up the wrong tree, but either way we’ll still have all the scrummy DNA testing/family arguments/ Pat and Tony having awkward meetings with Sharon! I CAN’T WAIT! BRING! IT! ON! And get the real Sharon back while you’re at it.

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The Archers: Nice day for a white wedding

There’s really ever such a lot that is irritating in the Archers at the moment. All right, there’s no need for that. I mean even more than usual. There’s the continuing story of Bridge Farm going down the toilet, in which it’s hard to say who’s more infuriating: Tom for insisting they have to re-brand (how many times can he say ‘re-brand’ before we must spear him with his own pitchfork?), Tony for being so dead set against the idea, or Pat for being sanctimoniously in the middle. Also super-irksome: Tom’s godawful pigs-playing-football youtube monstrosity. Please, pretend virtual people, don’t click on it any more, it only encourages him.  The only pleasing aspect of  the Bridge Farm yawn-fest is Brenda being pissed off about being left out of the planning meeting.

Then we’ve got the December romance of Jim and Christine, which is teeth-gritting not because I’m troubled by the thought of wrinklies having sex – just ask my 75-year old boyfriend! – but because it means we have  Jim being nice instead of his old irascible wind-up-Shula self and, more to the point, we have regular interludes with Christine whose acting is still as mahogany as a sideboard. And not to mention, though I will, because everyone else is, the tedious presence of Cloive ‘Orrobin, a man who is supposed to be menacing but who is merely nauseating, and whose performance makes Christine look like John Gielgud.

Nonetheless, in a wide ocean of irritation, the thing that winds me up the most every time I switch on, is this bloody wedding. WHY? I yell regularly at the radio, there being no one in earshot to yell at, everyone having evacuated the house at the first sniff of a ‘dum di dum.’ WHY ARE THEY SO BLOODY-MINDED ABOUT JANUARY 1ST? While Nic blathers on about invitation cards (how implausible was it to think that she might actually try and buy them in the village shop? Whoever wrote that line deserves a smack), and Will decides to have Roy as his best man again because it all worked out so well last time, I just keep hurling unanswered questions into the Ambridge ether. What’s the big deal about January 1st? Who’s going to cover the huge expense of people having to be paid time-and-a-half? Why’s Caroline being so sodding accommodating when clearly she’s already got a ton of other stuff going on? What about it traditionally being a nice quiet day after the excesses of New Year’s Eve, a buffer with nothing more than telly and left-over Quality Street before everyone has to back to work? What, in short, is going on with Will and Nic’s massive sense of entitlement that they’ve decided the day and that’s that; now everyone else must work their butts off to ensure it happens just as they have randomly decreed? And finally, and most puzzling of all, why is Nic even contemplating wedlock, when Will becomes more serial killer-esque with every episode?

In short, I’m not surprised Ivy chose now to peg it. ‘A wedding?’ she cried. ‘On January 1st? How incredibly narksome. Unplug the life support Susan, there’s a love.’

If only we could all be as blissfully un-sentient.

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The Archers: Show me the money

Child's pocket money, or Ambridge salary?

In these times of economic hardship, with stock-markets making regular wall-of-death plummets and unemployment levels making regular, uh, Eiffel Tower climbs, one can’t help but wonder: how do people in The Archers manage for money? Storylines that ring true in financial terms are rarer than hens’ teeth, which Hayley can tell you are pretty rare. This is why I fainted several months ago when Lillian and Matt actually mentioned a figure when discussing house prices; normally The Archers are on the far right of coy when it comes to talking cash.

How are Eddie and Clarrie managing for instance, now Clarrie’s resigned from the dairy? (How clearly you can hear in Pat’s voice her despair that it was Clarrie rather than Susan who’d brought the lergy to Bridge Farm. Her impatience with Susan isn’t thinly disguised so much as out, proud and having a good old day trip.) Anyway, when E&C lost the farm back in the day they were barely clinging on, and Clarrie’s many jobs surely only pay tuppence ha’ppeny. Eddie’s patios and casual work aren’t going to keep the fox from the bin, and nor are Will-yum’s  patronising handouts. ‘Oooh Will-yum! That’s too much.’ HOW MUCH IS IT, I cry in vain. From Clarrie’s gasp-levels I estimate maybe £200? But could be anything from a tenner to a grand. Will-yum’s swimming in loot from some legacy so I don’t need to worry about how he copes on his doubtless minimum wage gamekeeper’s salary and Nic’s pin money from the Bull. Talking of the Bull, anyone remember that a few short months ago the pub was on the verge of a precipice, with Jolene planning to sell up, and a campaign to support it and t-shirts and everything? But since Jolene’s been shagging Kenton all that worry seems to have faded away. We’re supposed to imagine that the punters have been brought back by Jolene’s happy post-coital glow. No wonder Kenton’s so blinking smug.

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The Archers: Core-shaking four months on

Incredibly, it’s been 134 days since that fateful dark and stormy night when Ambridge was shaken to its core. Time to revisit; time to see where everyone’s at and assess the devastating knock-on effects.

Mwah ha ha!

Lizzie – The Grieving Widow’s trajectory has been swift. January: Oh Nigel! February: I’m going to lean so hard on David his leg’ll fall off. March: I’ll poach Caroline’s manager as he’s the only person in the entire country who can do this job. April: Think I’ll make a few people redundant. May: Nigel who? It’s good to see Lizzie moving on in the only way she knows how: by being a complete bee-atch.     Next bit of core-shaking: See Roy, below.

Roy – When Caroline lent Roy to the Grieving Widow to help her out, she forgot what Lizzie’s like. Before you could say, ‘that’s a bit of a rum do,’ Lizzie had enticed Roy away by dint of a humungous salary made up of a newly-redundant falconry expert’s wages. Plus a fancy new car and the confidence that every time he wipes his arse she’ll tell him what a fantastic job he’s doing. I’m certainly not the only person to notice that Lizzie and Roy are very much enjoying spending some quality time with each other.     Next bit of core-shaking: I can’t shy away from this, though the very thought gives me the willies. Clearly Roy and Lizzie are going to have an ill-fated dalliance among the famous Lower Loxley rose-bushes, a low-rent Mellors/Lady Chatterley de nos jours. This will have knock-on effects on everyone, especially me. God, imagine the dialogue.

  • Roy: Ohhh, Elizabeth.
  • Lizzie: Ohhh, Roy.
  • Roy: Oi never realised you was such a goer Elizabeth.
  • Lizzie: I never realised a fellow of the lower orders could have such a massive, er, CV.

Ok, if this starts I’m switching to Ambridge Extra for the duration.

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The Archers: Pimp my Peggy

Yes, I think I can just about detect a small plot here.

Those of us who’ve been puzzling over the purpose of Elona, the heavily-accented carer of poor witless Jack, let out a collective ‘eureka!’ this week. As with Archimedes in his bath, so the solution landed on our heads like an apple. You know, I’ve always wondered how Galileo managed to drop those two apples from the Leaning Tower of Pisa in such a way as to clobber Newton and Archimedes simultaneously, and why were they sharing a bath anyway? Those Greeks, what were they like? But back to Elona, who isn’t Greek so much as Albanian, and whose air-time has been steadily increasing to eye-watering levels since she first popped up to tell Peggy that, ‘Jack ‘as ‘ad a goo’ night Meesus Worrley’: finally we all understood her story-arc. Because till now speculation, which you can be sure has been rife in Qwerty-Towers, if nowhere else, has gone futilely along the following lines:

Why are they bigging up this here Elona considering she is playing exactly the sort of part generally occupied by the silent characters, viz. a member of the serving classes who is a complete treasure? (See Titcombes.) Is it simply because she allows the writers to tick the ‘ethnic diversity’ box? This box has hitherto been ticked by Usha, but obviously in these difficult days of budget cuts that kind of unthinking form-filling just won’t do. Presumably an alarming chap in braces and deceptively jovial manner has come in to run a compulsory equalities awareness workshop for the writers, shortly before the start of his three-year contract on Midsomer Murders. He has had to explain that just because a character is Indian doesn’t mean your cultural work is done. Particularly if that character is a lawyer and extremely middle-class and was born in the UK and is a vicar’s wife, albeit one with a statue of Ganesh on her coffee table. It’s rather like primary schools assuming they’re good to go re. cultural diversity because they’ve ‘done’ Diwali. All primary schools do Diwali because there are sweetmeats and candles and it’s near Christmas and they kept the display from last year. Tick. I’d like to see ‘em tackle something a bit more challenging, like Yom Kippur (no food or candles) or Ramadan (no food or candles).

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The Archers: Ambridge Extra

Half-way through listening to the new Ambridge Extra thingy, I realised my teeth were all tense. Odd, I thought. My teeth are normally quite relaxed when I listen to the Archers. Then it hit me like the Rophynol someone had clearly slipped into Alice’s lager: I can’t stand the young people of Ambridge. I can tolerate them only if they are leavened by the over 25s. They’re all unlikeable and operate on one note: stroppy (Jamie, Josh), whiny (Alice), or boring (Pip, Daniel, Chris, Ben). The only properly rounded character is Phoebe, who has just buggered off to South Africa specifically to avoid being in Ambridge Extra.

All together now: 'Dum di dum di dum di dum...'

Other than her, they all make my teeth tense. And this extra thing was all. About. The. Young. People. I don’t want to speculate knee-jerkingly about why the P That B thought this was a good idea. Yes I do. Obviously they think there is a breathlessly waiting market out there of 15-23 year olds desperate for a Skins-style Archers spin-off. So in the first episode we have (checklist at the ready please, Mr Stereotyped Brainstorming Man in Whacky Braces and Big Blue Glasses):

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