So the gloomy day inches ever closer. The day that Helen wilfully hitches her wagon to Psycho Rob till death do them part, or until the Borsetshire Women’s Refuge helps her escape – whichever is sooner. In light of Jess finally getting round to organising the decree absolute, I am minded to reflect on Ambridge marriages. And long-term partnerships too, of course: I am a modern blogger, even if I still think that ‘living in sin’ sounds wildly exciting.
Are there any decent marriages at all in this benighted village? My decency test is very simple and goes like this: would I like to be one of the parties in this marriage? Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. For instance, the script-writers clearly believe that David and Ruth have a good and strong marriage. That may be true, on paper. (Yes, I do realise that everything in The Archers is technically ‘on paper,’ at least to start with.) But my test asks whether I would like to be in that marriage. Actually be one of the two partners, I mean, not like Camilla was ‘in the marriage’ of Charles and Di. UGH, a horrible vision of being David and Ruth’s sexual plaything has entered my mind and won’t leave. Nurse! Brain bleach, stat. So anyway, no I damn well wouldn’t like to be married to David, thanks all the same. Would I like to be married to Ruth? Are you effing kidding me?! It’s nice they have each other, though. Saves two other people.
I’m going to run the test on some more couples.
Shula and Alistair: I could probably tolerate being married to Alistair for a short while. I like his ironic laconic misanthropic shtick. Yes, you get mild poetry in this post too, no extra charge. But the gambling would get to me, and lately, the utter lack of interest in life would also get to me. He clearly needs a health check. Anyway, this analysis counts for diddly-squat, because I would as soon as marry Shula as I would marry Jim Davidson. Why J. Davidson popped into my head I don’t know, but let’s just assume that he is my unconscious brain’s go-to example of horror.
Caroline and Oliver: Caroline used to be fun but is now a boring workaholic who didn’t even have the decency to shag Roy when he was her employee. Oliver has a nice voice but is a fox-hunting Tory, and I think he also probably has a big paunch. Sorry to be body image-ist about it. For what it’s worth, I would overlook a big paunch (literally and metaphorically), if it was attached to a nice chap.
Adam and Ian: I do quite fancy Adam, even though I bat for the wrong team. And I don’t mean Darrington. But IAN! I know he is inexplicably popular amongst listeners, but I find him boring and sanctimonious. I would be in favour of an Adam-Charlie tryst, even though Charlie is weird and has an alarmingly flat affect. I prefer Charlie to Ian. There, I’ve said it.
Brian and Jennifer: While on the subject of fancying people, I might as well fess up that Brian is my main male crush in The Archers. Say what you like, I don’t care. Haters gonna hate. I wouldn’t want to be married to him though. The cad! The bounder! And I certainly wouldn’t want to be married to Jenny-Darling. I’d have dispatched her long ago with a single blow from one of her cast-iron Le Creuset frying pans.
Mike and Vicky: I’m fond of Mike, and think he might be a dark horse dans le boudoir. When Betty was alive, they did have a truly enviable marriage. But Vicky has ruined things. Also she has taken Mike to Birmingham and I will never ever forgive her. Also I am still angry that Bethany, the only disabled character in the village, has been whisked away before she had a chance to be in any storylines. What price your inclusion policy, BBC, huh? I say HUH?
Ed and Emma: Ed is clearly a saint, as Emma either whinges from dawn to dusk, or is so absurdly upbeat that I just want to start pulling out my own teeth. She must be terrific in the sack, that’s all I can think. And Ed’s sweet, but too much of a dim loser. I’m telling it as it is. Must have mislaid my word mincer today.
Will and Nic: Just no.
Alice and Christopher: Like Brian, who described their union as a ‘starter marriage’, I don’t believe in them as a couple. They’re like kids playing at house.
Tony and Pat: In the credit corner they clearly do love and respect each other. Tony is something of a feminist, which is an essential criterion on my husband shopping list. But in the debit corner is all the BLOODY WHINGEING. Where’s the fun, guys? Even after you go on the cruise of a lifetime (boring-sounding holiday if you ask me), you have to ruin it by forcing people to look at your photos.
Alan and Usha: I was about to complain that Alan was a bit ‘holier-than-thou’, then realised that this was entirely appropriate to his standing. Yes, I could potentially be in this marriage. Alan has a strong sense of empathy (another item on my husband shopping list). He is quite romantic, and has a sense of humour to boot. Usha doesn’t compromise too much, but makes up for it with her wry take on things, her intelligence and her sexy laugh. So I give this marriage a cautious thumbs-up.
Neil and Susan: Remember when Susan’s sister had a little crush on Neil? I could totes see where she was coming from. Yes, ok, he presumably smells of pigs from morning to night (NOT an approved aroma on the husband shopping list), and he likes bell-ringing, which is super-geeky and not in a hipster way. But he is steady, kind, a great father, good at DIY, and EXTREMELY tolerant after living with Susan for all these years. I wouldn’t like to be married to Susan, no siree, but I would like to be the person she has on speed-dial when she hears another good piece of village news.
Eddie and Clarrie: Old Clarrie, yes. New Clarrie, no. Sorry. And yes, I know that new Clarrie is the original old Clarrie. But I still find her too Pam Ayres. Which is weird, because I would marry Pam Ayres in a heartbeat. Maybe Clarrie is Pam Ayres without the fun. As for Eddie, no, obviously not, what kind of crazer do you think I am?
Kenton and Jolene: I had high hopes for this marriage. They’re both quite sexy, humorous and interesting. But sad to say, their relationship has degenerated into dull and sometimes rancorous domesticity.
Fallon and Harrison: I believe that he genuinely really likes her. But I also believe that she is only going out with him because he wore her down with his persistence, and because nothing better came along. Because she was worried about turning thirty, she decided to SETTLE. Shame. I could probably marry Harrison as I like his uniform and his nice gentle manner with old ladies (which would come in handy if he married me, obvs). But I couldn’t marry Fallon because of the upcycling vintage shite.
Robert and Lynda: It’s another good ‘on-paper’ marriage. They are great together. Would I like to be married to either of them? Only in the same way that I’d like to be force-fed Wolfgang and Salieri’s droppings. See also James and Leonie – they’re well-suited, but I’d steer clear. Hundred-mile radius sort of clear.
No, apart from Alan and Usha, there’s only one relationship I could have considered seriously, and it’s now sadly no longer an option. (Strictly speaking, I don’t suppose it ever was an option, on a wide variety of different grounds.) I’m not talking about Roy and Hayley (ROY?! Lizzie was clearly in the grip of temporary madness), or Lizzie and Nigel (a cute, but essentially sexless marriage), or even Bert and Freda (POEMS). I’m most certainly not talking about Kate and Lucas (she’s lucky no-one’s pushed her into a purple-hued swimming pool before now, and he was pompous as anything). I’m talking about Matt and Lilian, of course. There was a couple who knew how to have fun. There was a couple whose conversation didn’t make me want to put my head in the oven (sidebar: we really ought to have an updated reference for suicide attempts, as gas ovens have long since been no use whatsoever). I think I regret Matt’s departure even more than Lilian does.
So, who have I missed? Do you disagree with my assessment? Which relationships do you admire?
Posted by Qwerty, whose new book, For The Love of The Archers, will be published by Summersdale in the autumn. If you can’t wait till then, her novel When We Were Sisters, is already out, published by Ebury.