I look nothing like Hercule Poirot, okay?
So Pip is off to a strangely smoke- and horseshit-free London to claim his fortune. For us this affords the pleasure of a closer look at David Suchet’s Mr Jaggers. An expert turn this, from an old trooper. Not only do we get the cold efficiency of a man whose skills are completely dedicated to Mammon, but also the merest hint of exasperation at the fecklessness of the young bucks for whom he has responsibility. One feels quite sorry for him really, especially as Pip immediately sets out on the predictable trajectory of a lad with more money than sense.
New furniture, tailored clothes, fine wines, an effete accent and squiggly handwriting: it seems that the nouveau-flush Pip doesn’t want to deny himself any indulgence. The only thing he doesn’t seem to have is a moral compass, a feature accentuated by the contrast with Herbert Pocket, his guide to the world of the gentry, who has given up money for love. Joe Gargery arriving at Pip’s gentleman’s club like the ghost of plebs past provokes mortification. As I said yesterday Joe is played by Shaun Dooley with a harder edge than in many other versions and this sharpens the chill in his relations with Pip. Rather than a confused buffoon we get a man with pride and integrity who loves Pip and is heartbroken by his slide into dilettantism. Still, with Pip’s post-Twilight looks I’m not sure how Joe could ever have thought he was blacksmith material.
Assuming the Archers keeps going for the next sixty years – and short of international apocalypse, it will – I thought it timely to produce a brief guide to the Ambridge teenagers. They’re the next generation after all, and one day they will carry the major storylines, god help us. So if you don’t know your Daniel from your Jamie, your Pip from your Squeak, here’s my handy who’s who, to help ensure the longevity of your listening pleasure.
LEAVE ME ALONE ALL RIGHT
Jamie Perks. Age 15. A Troubled Young Man with an authentic grunt, Jamie’s been through the wringer. First his dad died. Then he realised with a start that his mother was the moaniest woman in Borsetshire. Finally, and worst of all, he inadvertently walked in on Kenton snogging Jolene. Jolene is Jamie’s alt-mum, being fun and attractive and basically everything Kathy isn’t. Thus Jamie inadvertently witnessed a true, if complex, primal scene: the father figure who’d abandoned him, in amorous congress with the mother he wished he’d had. It’s no wonder he occasionally bunks off school and trashes bird hides (Ambridge bus shelter equivalent).
- Most likely to: Play loud music to drown out Kathy’s nagging, and tell Kenton what a LOSER he is.
- Least likely to: Say, ‘would you like a hand with the dishes mummy darling?’
- Most important contribution: Telling Kathy to leave him alone. He speaks for us all.
- Where will he be in ten years time? Either working for a computer games company or in prison.
Daniel Hebden. Age 16. Unpopular, as befits a child of Shula’s. Used to be bezzie mates with Jamie, till Jamie dumped him for being boring. What took you so long, Jamie? Unlike his ex-friend, Daniel’s lucked out with the step-fathers: Alistair, despite being a dark brooding gambler, is a jolly good dad. Shula fussed infuriatingly over Daniel when he was a toddler, leaving him with a legacy of arthritis and congenital annoyingness. Being a teenager hasn’t helped him become any more likeable, but he has one saving grace: his grandfather Jim, who is gradually de-Shula-ing him.
- Most likely to: Bang on about wildlife.
- Least likely to: Become popular.
- Most important contribution: Jim’s influence on him means Shula is in a permanent state of outrage. Thank you, Jim.
- Where will he be in ten years time? Could take over his Dad’s veterinary business. Will always have a tough time in relationships till Shula dies, then will suddenly be released and marry a porn star.
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.
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).
Uh, please can I have a choice of mother?
I picked up the radio and shook it, unable to believe my ears. Surely that wasn’t Kate giving Helen advice about having babies, was it? Wasn’t that a bit like Hugh Hefner guiding Peter Stringfellow in the ways of monogamy? Or, here’s a good one, like Emma giving Pip advice about choosing the right man… hang on a minute!
Yes, it was Implausible Advice Week on the Archers. Kate started it, by lecturing Helen on what a huge commitment it is to have children. You could hear a collective Radio 4 gasp of outrage. I bow to no man in my dislike of Helen, but even I had to applaud when she pointed out that Kate had abandoned her child and gone to live on the other side of the world.
But did this setback stop Kate? Did it heck as like. Just a couple of days later, she was dishing out advice to Alice about not settling down with Christopher. ‘You’re not going to marry him, are you?’ she sneered. (I bloody hope she is: Jenny at that wedding would be a sight worth seeing. Er, hearing.) Since Kate slunk in from Jo’berg, we’ve been dodging large, cumbersome, Bartleby-sized hints that all is not well with the Kate-Lucas ménage, Lucas presumably having finally woken from his trance. So this, too, was a piece of wisdom that Kate was not in a position to give. Especially as her first choice of baby-father was Roy, who’s got only two settings: boring as all get out, or committing acts of racism. Yes, Roy, I do have a long memory, don’t I?
‘No! No!’ cries Mr Qwerty, backing out of the kitchen, hands clamped over his ears. Kate, who is back in Ambridge for a relentlessly long visit, was the cause of Mr Q’s permanent exile from The Archers. In the fifteen years since her troubled youth drove him to despair, he’s heard only snippets of the programme, commenting occasionally as he flits past, ‘What’s happened to Richard Lock?’ or ‘That doesn’t sound like the real Hayley’.
No, I said DON'T
Last week, I had to break the terrible news that Kate was back. He went quite pale. Now as soon as there’s so much as a whiff of dum-di-dums, he, like many a spouse, high-tails it out of the house, in terror of hearing Kate’s nasal whine. Fair enough. She is appalling. I’m only able to tolerate her myself if I have a large gin and tonic to hand, and if she’s counter-balanced by Hayley, saying sweetly, ‘Oh look! Phoebe must have liked that Mother’s Day card a lot, to get it for both of us.’
The script-writers must be in a particularly mean mood, for the other day they jammed both Kate and Helen in the same episode. Together. All that was needed for them to move seamlessly into the opening scene from Macbeth was for Pip to stroll in carrying a cauldron. Under the pressure, I finished one vat of Bombay Sapphire and cracked open the next. Helen was a-quiver with un-expressed resentment over Kate’s negligent uber-breeding. Kate meanwhile had come rather late to the notion that leaving her daughter on the other side of the world might have one or two minor repercussions.
I was surprised to find Continue reading
That great old Beatles song could have been written about young Pip Archer, Lolita of this parish. Not only will she be seventeen in a matter of days, as she keeps bloody reminding us (all RIGHT Pip, we’ll get you a present, do stop going on), but, as Paul McCartney sang, ‘The way she looks, is way beyond compare’. Ever since Pip gave herself a makeover, we’ve been treated to parental shock and outrage, as David rummages in the cliché box and comes up with, ‘You’re not going out looking like THAT’ and ‘Is that a skirt or a belt?’
We’ve also had running commentaries from seemingly unconnected bystanders regarding the merits of Pip wearing shorts with tights, which have gone on so long and so favourably, the whole storyline must surely have been sponsored by the, er, shorts and tights industry.
Anyway, Continue reading