Tag Archives: Helen

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 Apprentice 711: Columbus at the Coliseum

Gratuitous pic of Tre from Series Three

In the normal run of things I don’t generally miss an Apprentice candidate once they’ve felt the wrong end of the pointy finger. I think back to the start of this series and can barely recall those who fell early. Alex? Felicity? Edward? (I had to look them up.) Even ones I thought I’d miss like Ellie (too normal for her own good) and Edna (off her head; leather gloves) are gone from my affections. Watching The Apprentice makes Roman emperors of us all. We sit on our comfy thrones watching funny little people doing crazy things for our amusement. If one of them gets gored by a lion, or whatever it was that went on in the Coliseum (why should I be expected to know this when other people think Columbus was the potato guy?), we just say ‘Who’s next?’ The Apprentice juggernaut is far bigger than its candidates.

Very occasionally a personality impresses itself so indelibly that it is remembered after its sell-by date. Stuart Baggs from the last series for instance; and I’ve always had a soft spot for Tre from Series Three because he was so stroppy and interesting. I might have to face up to the fact that actually I just really fancied Tre. But generally I don’t miss anyone after they’ve gone, except Margaret.

All that said, this week I did find myself missing Melody and her over-defined enunciation just a bit. I would have loved to have seen her in Helen and Tom’s team, insisting that ac-tu-ally it was Charlie Raleigh who liked to smoke potatoes and Byron studied poetry at Yale with Al Gore. I would also have been interested to see if Helen and Tom still decided to choose a nodding BNP bulldog equivalent of a restaurant with Melody present. Say what you like about Melody, go on, you know you want to, but she certainly didn’t look ‘100% British.’ Which was the best thing about her.

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The Archers: Things they haven’t said yet

Post SATTC there are quite a few conversations waiting to explode. I thought I’d jot down a handy list in case the script-writers need reminding. What have I missed?

David: ‘Lizzie, there’s something I need to tell you about who gave Nigel the idea to go up on the roof…’

Freddie: ‘Now Daddy’s dead please can’t we just go to the local comp?’

Jill: ‘Now Nigel’s dead can’t the twins just go to the local comp?’

Jill: ‘Lizzie, I’ve never told you this but my father sent me to a fancy-pants posh school and I thought he’d abandoned me. Not to pressurise you or anything.’

David: ‘Perhaps it would be a good idea to ask Lizzie some questions about the business, save me any more exasperated phone-calls in which I behave like a straw-chewing hick.’

Kenton: ‘Life’s short, Jolene. Let me take you up Lakey Hill. If you know what I mean.’

Tony: ‘Hang on a minute, I’ve just emerged from a trance. Helen, you are a complete cow of the first order.’

Helen: ‘Why, when most women are nuttier once their baby’s arrived than when they’re preggers, have I bucked the trend? I guess it’s because I’m more irritating than getting a lump of cheese stuck in your throat.’

Ian: ‘Helen, did I ever tell you I was a sperm donor?’

Helen: ‘Ian, did I ever tell you that I specifically requested your wriggly Irish tadpoles?’

Tony: ‘I’m sorry, I’m just going to be sick in this yellow baby bath decorated with duckie-wuckies.’

Henry Archer: ‘You’re kidding me, right? Billions of women in the world and she’s my mother?’

Harry: ‘Listen Fallon, I didn’t kiss you passionately when I gave my Dick because I have cold sores/HIV/halitosis/ am gay/frigid/a virgin. But we just need one brief episode to sort it out and live happily ever after.’

Matt: ‘Bet we could get a really good price for Lower Loxley; Elizabeth’s too grief-stricken to negotiate.’

Lillian: ‘That’s terrible Matt! Oh, okay then.’

Tony: ‘Listen Kathy, can you just piss off? You’re in my house more than I am.’

Lizzie: ‘You utter bastard, David.’

Posted by Qwerty

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The Archers: Stirred but not shaken. Boing!

The brooch goes nicely with this cape.

After all the anticipation, the weeks of speculation, the outlandish yet exciting theories: did it live up to the hype? No. It did not. And what’s more, Hell-en is still with us.

The unusually large cast spread out languorously across the half hour, confirming that what’s perky in fifteen minutes can be a complete dog at twice the length. We began with the much-trailed conclusion to the Hell-en drama, in which everyone who’s ever given birth – and many who haven’t – yelled ‘It’s pre-eclampsia!’ at the radio. The clues were obvious. Swollen ankles? Check. Headache? Check. Need for dramatic finale to a pregnancy during a special anniversary edition? Check.

And so a nation pinned their hopes on a perfect end to this sorry saga: Hell-en pegs it but the baby survives. Actually I was perfectly prepared to give up on the baby too if it meant binning Hell-en. In hospital Tony reprised the teary-scene from when he found poor John under the Massey Ferguson. He had a horrible reversal and started blubbing that Hell-en had been right all along and it was All. His. Fault. How very irritating. I think FanofLinda, a mental health professional, will back me up when I say that this is a classic case of someone with Personality Disorder (Hell-en) gradually sucking those around her (eg Tony) into their twisted world and making them see things all distorted. Tony mate; you were and are still right, and you have been way more supportive than the silly moo deserves. Take it from one who knows someone who knows.

The red herrings came thick and herring-y. Tony’s driving too fast and they’re all gonna die! Oh. They’ve arrived safely. Hell-en’s not going to make it through the Caesarean! Oh. She’s fine. (Damn.) The baby’s going to be touch and go! Oh. He’s doing well. Lizzie’s going to remember she has a heart condition and collapses on the banqueting table, accidentally stabbing herself in the heart with that Art Deco brooch as she falls! Oh. She’s hale and hearty. Kenton’s going to over-excite the children into a frenzy in which they go all Lord of the Flies and kill off the adults. Oh. They’re eating crisps.

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The Archers: Shaken to the core

High Priestess Whitburn says 'Let's shake it up, baby'. Photo from the Guardian.

For an update after the Big Event, click here

Since High Priestess Vanessa Whitburn announced that there would be a special sixtieth anniversary episode on January 2nd, the world has been abuzz with anticipation (it says here in this BBC press release that I’m copying this from). Ambridge will be SHAKEN TO THE CORE apparently. Well shiver me timbers and pour us another sherry Marjorie. I have managed to avoid the message board speculation, which uses the acronym SATTC to refer to this topic, in order to bring you my unadulterated (apart from the sherry) thoughts on what these possible Ambridge Shaking Events might be.  Apologies if they’re all wildly unoriginal and have been bandied about already across the internet, though I don’t know why I’m apologising because I don’t actually care. The only clues I have permitted myself are Herself’s own words that two storylines are involved: ‘one running and one new surprise.’

In Category One, the most obvious Core-Shaking Storyline currently running is Hell-en and her increasingly criminal behaviour. If ever a pregnant woman was asking to be pushed down the stairs it was this one. Possible core-shakers include:

  • Tony finally growing a pair and strangling Hell-en with that godwaful-sounding butterfly mobile. The clue is that it ‘hangs from the ceiling’ – this has been mentioned several times – so he could easily make it look like suicide.
  • Ian finally realising that Hell-en is an evil succubus and poisoning her with the much-referred to white spirit he borrowed from Robert Snell.
  • Hell-en miscarrying, though I really don’t think the writers will go down this route, for reasons too complicated and frankly dull to go into here (if you’re interested I can send you my lengthy ‘Why Hell-en’s baby will survive’ treatise, £2.99 plus p&p).
  • Hell-en going into premature labour. The baby’s health hangs in the balance for a few nail-biting weeks before the little fighter slowly gets stronger and stronger, though sadly not strong enough to cope with the ultimate horror of being parented by Hell-en.

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The Archers: Dodgy sexual politics in Ambridge?

Listening to The Archers omnibus this morning, I found myself getting increasingly incensed by the appalling mothering of Kate and loony behavior of pregnant Helen, having a right old go at a bewildered Tony, as she threw her metaphorical steriliser out of the pram (and since I imagine she plans to breastfeed, I was confused that she even bought one, especially since it sounded, via radio, to be bewilderingly huge). I even tweeted about it.

Then a friend, and fellow omnibus listener called, and said how cross she was that the writers are ‘presenting women facing difficult choices’ as being so crap and so mad. ‘Oh bloody hell yes, it’s not real,’ I reminded myself hastily, and deleted the draft emails to Social Services.

So I contacted the Diva of Archers blogs, Qwerty, (and the reason, after a ten-year absence, that I even listen to the show again) who gave me permission to trespass on her regular Pauseliveaction patch and have a rant. Please bear in mind I’m not as regular or attentive a fan as her.

But this morning, after pausing for thought, I did feel my friend has a point. Helen and Kate are characters created by the writers of the Archers, and hells teeth, if you cease to be annoyed by how whiny, selfish, narcissistic, passive-aggressive and ghastly they both are and remember we are hearing the voices of actors, speaking lines written for them, you do start to wonder if there is some misogyny afoot.

The character of Helen (or ‘Hell-en’, as Qwerty calls her) is pretty unrelentingly unlikable. Could we not have an over-arching storyline about either her, or single parenthood, that does not start from the basis that someone choosing to have a baby on their own is not stark staring bonkers and thoroughly unpleasant to boot?

I know this is supposed to be a traditional, conservative rural community, but I’m still hacked off that, when Brian Aldridge brought home the child of his dead mistress, Jenny not only had to put up with the humiliation, she also seems to do all of Ruairi’s childcare.

Then we’ve got the gruesome Kate, the most careless mother in the world, leaving her offspring willy nilly across the globe, all of whom are distraught at her inability to keep her children on one continent at the same time.

Come on Archers writers, will you stop writing storylines that kick women in the teeth? Can we muster something good, positive, constructive? If you need a really good example of a show where women, and particularly older women (Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt), are written fabulously well, with lots of character, lots of power, lots of sex and chutzpah, go and watch Boston Legal. Then do please, buck up.

Posted by Inkface              (more Archers reviews/rants here)

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The Archers: Driving me Mental

I was chatting to my friend Fanoflinda the other day, and she said something extraordinary. She said she had changed her mind about something. As this had never happened before, I bade her speak on.

‘You know how I’m always complaining about the mental health storylines on the Archers?’
‘Yes, you never stop.’
‘How everyone with a mental health issue – Mike, Helen, Pat, Alistair, Eddie – has a few weeks of a problem in its most clichéd form, before it abruptly disappears following a magical radio-land intervention of a very brief therapy course, or a couple of tablets, or simply having realised that things aren’t so bad after all?’
‘I do remember you mentioning this, yes.’
‘And how I lamented that these things should be more realistically portrayed? And how terrific it is on the rare occasions when they are?’
‘Such as Jack’s Alzheimers’, we chorused together.

Fanoflinda is, as you may have guessed, a mental health professional herself. Her dearest wish is to be employed by Vanessa Whitburn as the Archers psychiatric story-editor. ‘Frankly I’d have a lot more to do than that cushy number, the agricultural story editor. He just has to remind them about beets every so often, then goes back to eating cheese and reading Playboy’.

Betty will tell you: it's no joke working in a pub.

‘So what have you changed your mind about?’
‘It’s Jolene. She’s in the throes of post-bereavement depression. Very natural, very well-played, very accurate. People take months, years, to get over something like this.’
‘And?’
‘And it’s boring the bejesus out of me. It would be better if she’d got over it by now.’

Ain’t that the truth. Someone being permanently depressed doesn’t make good radio. Yes, I know you’re going to say what about Marvin in Hitchhikers, but Marvin wasn’t trying to run a pub. Listening to Jolene being depressed as she pours Shires onto the floor and breaks glasses and forgets to greet people is about as much fun as listening to one of Bert’s poems.

It’s no wonder punters are leaving the Bull in droves. I just hope Jolene doesn’t drive us listeners away too. What she needs now is a session of CBT, or a couple of Prozac, or alternatively just realising how much everyone loves her via Harry’s Facebook group.

Posted by Qwerty.           See more Archers posts here.

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The Archers: Beyond an Artichoke

Waaaah! I just found out that Hell-en is my mother.

I have a strange sense of déjà vu from when Shula was preggers with the uncharming Daniel. During that time, which surely went on for considerably longer than the regulation nine months, my default position was to yell, ‘That’s just TOO MUCH SODDING INFORMATION’ at the radio. I now find myself doing exactly the same, whenever Hell-en pops up to tell us earnestly about the triple-test, the pros and cons of water birth, or the position she fancies giving birth in (I guess she feels she’s owed an interesting position, having missed out on one to conceive the sprog). At least I can shout at the radio or pop outside for a brief sob. Poor Kirsty, Hell-en’s main confidante, has no option but to listen. It’s no wonder something snapped the other day and she came over all sarky and abrasive.

‘I had to talk to the midwife about a birth plan’, simpered Hell-en. ‘Ooh, a plan’, sneered Kirsty, her voice dripping in contempt, ‘Bet you liked that!’

Hell-en laughed uncertainly, then started banging on about tests for Down’s Syndrome.

‘What would you do if the tests showed up positive?’ Kirsty asked, bluntly. ‘It’s very unlikely’, Hell-en blustered.  ‘Yes’, insisted newly stroppy Kirsty, ‘But what if it WAS?’  ‘I’d have the baby anyway of course’, smarmed Hell-en.

As this exchange took rather a long time, and seemed to be sign-posted in big purple capital letters, it made me suspect the Hell-en pregnancy storyline will be filled with uncertain test results and all the resulting issues of the day: what if your result is a bit iffy? Should you have an amniocentesis? What are the stats for younger women having babies with Down’s? Will Hell-en be more or less insufferable if her baby has a disability?

Poor us. Poor baby. And poor, poor Kirsty.

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The Archers: Everybody Hurts

Clearly the script-writers, like the rest of us, could take no more of Jude. With brutal speed they dispatched him to roam America, sans Pip. Go West, young man. No, a bit further than Penny Hassett. If only he could have taken Brenda and Helen with him, my cup would have runneth over. Just imagine the three of them in a Thunderbird convertible, barrelling along the Big Sur Highway. They could fuel the car on whinge-gas alone.

Hey Jude, you let me down...

The departure of Jude and his irritating text-speak was an occasion of great delight for everyone, particularly me, David and Ruth. Everyone, in fact, except poor old Pip, who has lost her Fizz. Her wailing reminded me very strongly of being dumped myself, at seventeen – even though surely I must have been quite pulchritudinous and fascinating – by an older man. Well, he was eighteen but he’d been to Belgium, so he seemed very worldly. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? No, I don’t mean to Belgium.

I thought Ruth did a fair job of comforting Pip, at least until she started banging on about college again. I’m learning a lot of parenting techniques from Ruth, though I’m mainly filing them in the ‘how not to do it’ section. I also learned a lot from David, who, when confronted with his post-Jude daughter, decided to focus entirely on a cow he was grooming. Grooming as in brushing it and tying ribbons on its tail, rather than preparing it for an illegal relationship. At least, I think so. Their skirting-around conversation about forelocks and rosettes was meant to be a metaphor for everything being okay between the two of them, but it just made them seem completely suppressed and weird. Which is accurate enough, on reflection.

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The Archers: Tipping Point

So glad someone's finally applied my theory to something meaningful

Malcolm Gladwell described a ‘tipping point’ as a moment of critical mass. He used it to explain how crime dropped dramatically in New York in the 1990s, but here I will apply it to something far more important: The Archers. I fear my favourite programme is on the verge of a tipping point, from which there is no return.

It’s been flirting with danger for some time, but The Archers has now almost reached the point at which the number of staggeringly irritating plots outweigh the enjoyable story-lines. Soon the whole edifice will come crashing down. It’s not just me who feels this way. Only the other night this comment appeared on The Archers message board: ‘Could someone get my radio back please? It’s in the garden and I’d get it myself but I’m just phoning the glazier.’  This cri de coeur was triggered by the episode in which Helen discovers she is pregnant. Right there with you, glazier-pal. Hell-en is unbearable whether she’s happy or sad, but happy is definitely worse.

Here are eleven pieces of evidence to support my thesis that The Archers is becoming so utterly annoying, it’s only a matter of days before every listener turns off their radio simultaneously at 7.05 pm, producing a surge of power to the National Grid large enough to cause a tsunami or earthquake (or something – haven’t quite sketched this part out properly yet).

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