When listening to the Archers, the spirit of Tony Hancock’s masterful parody, The Bowmans, is never far away. In the famous final scene, Old Ben Merriweather (Hancock), sees ‘half the village’ coming across the fields.
Tony: ‘Dang me, they shouldn’t be walking across that field.’
Actor: ‘Why not?’
The rest of the cast cry out in unison. This is followed by silence.
Tony [flat]: ‘Oh dear, what a shame. They’ve all fallen down that disused mineshaft.’
Naturally my first thought, on listening to the Great Flood sweep across Ambridge, was that at long last, our Old Ben Merriweather moment had come! This was a marvellous once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rid of all the dead wood, in one fell swoop. I felt sure that the scriptwriters had finally seen sense, goaded by a million whinging listeners (including me), and that the following tragic scenarios would now play out:
Adam: ‘Charlie, don’t leave me now. Come on!’
Charlie: ‘Glug glug glug…’ [Silence]
Adam [Sobbing]: ‘Nooo! Charlie! Dead! And all for the crimes of being annoying, and weirdly ubiquitous, and trying too hard to make your sexual preferences into some exciting mystery, and also for sounding like NewTom, which isn’t entirely fair since you were here first.’
Barwick Green: ‘Dum-di-dum-di-dum-di-dum’ [that special slow version they do when something sad has happened, not that Charlie pegging it, foot stuck in an underwater grate, really counts as sad in my book.]
And this one:
Kate: ‘No Mum, let me go, I must go back into the cottage to save my architect’s drawings of the lovely room I’m going to make for Phoebe, which will completely make up for me being a shit mother these last dozen years. Also my fur-lined yoga mat.’
Jenny: ‘No darling! It’s not safe.’ [Reconsiders.] ‘Well, actually, go on then, darling.’
Kate: ‘Glug glug glug’ [Silence]
Jenny: ‘Oh dear.’
Brian: ‘She always was a headstrong bitch that one. Never mind Jenny, that saves us her college fees, and you have several other children and a lovely new kitchen… oh dear.’ [Note to self: check to see if Home Farm has been flooded.] [Note back to self: Can’t be bothered, plays better if it has.]
And this one:
Shula: ‘I have to make sure the horses are all right! Oh, and Aunty Christine as well, I suppose. Really must work on my priorities one of these days.’
Massive wave of water from the turbulent Am: ‘Too late!’
Shula: ‘Glug glug glug’ [Silence]
Alistair [flat]: ‘Oh dear, what a shame.’
And this one:
Ruth [driving with difficulty through a flooded lane]: ‘Must… get… back… to… Deevid… and… make… things… right…. OOOOH NOOOOO… Glug glug glug’ [Silence]
Jill: ‘Mwah ha ha!’
Neil: ‘Good heavens, I must get back to all those people I encouraged to shelter in the church. Why, there’s Helen, Rob, Henry, Will, Dan (lucky he came back for this), Freddie and Lily, Roy, Christine, Harrison, and Freda of course. Oh no, the church has been engulfed.’
Superhero Adam: ‘We’d better get them out.’
Neil/ Ben Merriweather: ‘No, no, there be no point. No, no, no, no. Three hundred foot deep it is. They’ll all be splattered across the bottom. Ha, ha. Fill it in and forget about them.’
Might be getting my parodies slightly muddled here.
Anyway. [Shuts off evil smile.] I was sure that this was the purpose of the Great Floods (which incidentally, were rather exciting, and also climatically somewhat puzzling as most of the UK seems to be bathed in cold dry sunshine). So imagine my surprise when the pitiful casualty list so far seems to be limited to:
- Scruff, who will turn up unscathed, because Linda only recently lost a llama – which is a phrase that has never been uttered before – and also we not long ago had a dead dog when Ed shot Will’s, and you can’t have two dead dogs and a llama, it’s just too much dead pet.
- Six sheep. Baa Baa glug glug glug.
- Freda, who’s in hospital, and will doubtless recover. But if it was me writing this stuff (my god, just LET ME GET MY HANDS ON IT FOR ONE WEEK, THAT’S ALL I ASK), I would kill her off, harsh I know, but her continual silence has long been an embarrassment. Also I would love to hear the rhyming elegy Bert comes up with for her funeral:
‘Freda Fry/ Apple of moi eye/ You made a lovely pie’ etc, for forty stanzas.
So what the actual fuck was the point of this abrupt flood then, I asked myself. And in a blinding flash, I realised. It WAS designed to get rid of all the dead wood… the dead wood of all the recent mess of plots! Of course! Like Noah’s flood, this one was sent from God (Sean O’Connor) to rid the world (Ambridge) of its evil-doing (too many unnecessary and overly-dramatic plotlines) and restore us to peace and harmony (get back to not much happening each week).
So these are my post-flood predictions:
- The road-development baddies, on seeing how the place has flooded, will no longer be interested in building in damp old Ambridge. Penny Hasset will cop it instead. End of ‘Route B’ plot.
- Ruth will realise how close she came to losing her entire family and she and David will reunite in a sickening scene in which Jill bakes 18 cakes and Ruth bungs a frozen pizza in the oven and David calls Pip ‘Pipsqueak’ and Josh and Ben are irritating as usual. End of ‘moving away from Brookfield and its inevitable reversal and ugly aftermath’ plot.
- Talking of Pip, did anyone else feel the hairs on the back of their neck quiver slightly on realising that there is a powerful sexual chemistry between her and NewTom? Yes, in theory they’re too cousinly and familiar with each other, but in fact that was true of OldTom; NewTom is fresh and exciting to Pip. This would end the ‘Tom unlucky in love’ and the ‘Pip trailing around with no fixed purpose other than to bang on about robotic milking’ plots.
- Either Adam will realise he does love Charlie (though in god’s name, why?), and will leave Ian for him (I don’t really care about Ian, sorry), OR Charlie will be humbled by his brush with death and will stop creepily coming on to Adam whenever he (Charlie) suddenly remembers he’s gay. Either way, it’s the end of the ‘will they won’t they’ plot.
- Rob’s bang on the head will make him forget his previous personality. He will either become nice, OR he will look at Helen, say ‘my god what am I doing with this crazer’ and run back to his wife and the child who is so obviously his that I can’t even work out why everyone’s pretending that it’s not. End of the ‘Rob domestic abuser ( psychological variety) storyline’ and potentially also the end of the ‘stop saying he’s my child, Jess, just because we had unprotected sex nine months before he was born’ plot. God, I so hate the way Rob says ‘Jess.’ Of course this does also potentially give rise to some more awful plots about Helen but let’s face it, there’s no way to avoid that, whatever happens.
- Shula will interpret the floods biblically, and her self-centeredness will lead her to conclude (correctly, in my opinion), that she herself has brought down the wrath of God onto the village, because she lied to the police. She will turn herself in and will get several life sentences for all her years of righteous smugness. End of ‘Shula lying to police’ plot and indeed, all other Shula plots.
- Kenton will return to find that although he doesn’t have the big money from the sale of Brookfield (boo!), he does have a load of insurance money to do up the Bull [did the Bull flood? I really ought to do some research some time, but you know, boring]. End of ‘Kenton’s spent all the inheritance already’ plot. Incidentally, Fallon will realise that she doesn’t really want a cafe-cum-tat-shop, she wants to be in a band with Jolene and Harrison and they’ll go off for months at a time gigging on the country circuit and possibly having threesomes. I’d listen to that on Ambridge Extra, that’s for sure.
- Roy will either drown himself in the piles of water that are handily lying around, OR he will go and live with Daryl in a caravan and drink Tennants Extra. OR Phoebe will reconcile with him on the grounds that he’s better than Kate and he will pull himself together. End of the ‘suicidal Roy can’t be bothered to chuck out his take-away boxes’ plot.
- Ed will see a business opportunity after the floods, go into the clean-up business and, well, clean up. End of ‘Ed’s bad luck’ plots.
- All other stray plotlines will be quietly dropped in favour of stories about whose houses are ruined, who has to move in with who, whose insurance companies pay out and whose don’t, and so on. If you’re not very interested in flood-aftermath storylines, you may as well check out for a few months, as I can’t see there’s going to be much else going on.
All this will come to pass. I’m certain of it. And if it doesn’t, well… oh! Look at all those scriptwriters. Dang me, they shouldn’t be walking across that field…
The scriptwriters cry out in unison. This is followed by silence.
Posted by Qwerty, whose debut novel ‘When We Were Sisters’ is out now, published by Ebury Press (Random). Thanks to Rosy for suggesting I write this post.