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.
1. 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.
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.
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).
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.