Tag Archives: Radio 4

The Archers: Scones Out For the Lads

CG 1I’m calling it: Calendar Girls is the weirdest play Lynda has ever tried to put on. Yes, I do remember the one when she wasn’t sure, right up until opening night, whether Jim would read in English or Latin (you’d think that as the director she’d have needed to know that). And I also recall 2008’s effort, Jack and the Beanstalk, in which Lynda played the rear-end of a cow. I’m sure you’ll have your own examples of the craziest village plays. But there are three key reasons why Calendar Girls is even more bizarre than its predecessors.

  1. Everyone in Ambridge knows the film inside out.

Whenever Lynda approaches someone for a part, the person knows who she is talking about. Even young’uns such as Emma, who are unlikely to have even seen the film on the grounds of implausible demographics, know all the characters’ names. It is JUST NOT POSSIBLE. For one thing, CG has not entered the public consciousness in this way. And secondly, even if it had, the names are not memorable. They are all names like Chris, Annie and Ruth. Names like characters on The Archers, really, and look how long it took us to remember them. I still call Jenny, Chris and David ‘Thingy.’ Calendar Girls is not the Rocky Horror Show. There are no Riff Raffs and Frank N Furters in CG, more’s the pity. (Imagines exciting new mash-up, rings agent, explains idea, agents pretends to lose signal and puts phone down.) Continue reading

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The Archers: Don’t marry her, have me

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. Continue reading

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The Archers: Oh dear. They’ve all fallen down that disused mineshaft

bowmansWhen 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: Continue reading

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The Archers: Whither Kathy?

Cathycomehome

Ooh I’m prettier than I imagined

There’s so much I could say about what on earth is going on down Ambridge way. But why bother, when everyone else is already saying it, repeatedly, heatedly, and occasionally, defeatedly? Ablaze, we listeners are, ablaze, to be sure. So before I get onto the issue that’s really worrying me, I’ll quickly get some of the baggage we’re all carrying out of the way. Baggage is how my Archers therapist describes this stuff, by the way. She says I’m doing pretty well, all things considered. Though we need to up the sessions to three times a week.

Baggage: Continue reading

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The Archers: Dust down the agricultural story-editor

FloodedMarquee&CarParkI never thought I’d say this, but I’m hankering for more input from the agricultural story editor. I know he was taken out of mothballs the other day for a bit of ‘Oo-ar the Am’s gone brown, that’ll be the silt that will, oo-ar, I knew no good would come of that Justin Elliott and his city ways.’ But even that storyline eschewed pastoral calm in order to bring us yet another high-tension crisis – in this case the Am pouring into Linda’s marquee (Linda’s marquee is not a euphemism). Also – sidebar – how come they’ve got biblical rain showers in Borcestshire while the rest of this happily-united Kingdom is basking in the sort of sunshine that causes hardened hacks to type ‘Phew wot a scorcher’?

Anyway, I’m so over the high-tension crises. Back in the day (a few months ago), there would be four tomato blight-type plots for every Dan wanting to join the army story. I’m not saying that was quite the right balance. But lately we seem to be lurching from one damn thing to another. Roy and Lizzie have shagged! He wants to leave Hayley! Hayley’s found out! She’s being oddly good about it! Rob and Jess have shagged! Despite what he says! Jess has got a bun in the oven! Helen’s being oddly good about it! On the grounds that she has lost the little that remains of her tenuous grip on reality! The writers refuse to decide whether Rob is a sociopathic domestic abuser or just a decent misunderstood guy, so the ambiguity seems to be produced by whoever’s writing the script that week rather than any kind of actual plan! The stress is doing my nut in! As if that wasn’t enough, Mike and Vicki are abruptly upping sticks! I don’t want them to! I love Moike! Will there be an eleventh-hour reprieve? (Sidebar: There will, of course, because Bethany is the only child with a disability on the show and to get rid of her would smack of something most unpleasant.) Continue reading

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The Archers: Don’t leave us, Carol!

carol

I’m just thinking… I’ve had four glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon… I don’t think I should drive back to Bristol, do you? (NO WE DON’T, CAROL.)

The Archers scriptwriters have recently become a tad  obsessed with characters’ backstories. I imagine a bright young editorial assistant idly running her hand across those famous filing cabinets, full to bursting with index cards going back sixty-odd years, and saying, ‘You know? We should do something with these?’ her voice going up at the end of the sentence to indicate her youth and irritatingness. Leaping in to agree, because she’s young and quite pretty, the writers have been muttering about narrative depth and story arcs as if they were going out of fashion (they probably are), and throwing Midnight Walkers and John Archer’s unexpected progeny and Hazel Woolley at us, seemingly so we can mug up for Mastermind with History of the Archers as our specialist subject (don’t think this hasn’t occurred to me). Continue reading

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The Archers: Stop saying Jess is nice, it isn’t fooling anyone.

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Thumper: ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.’
Bambi: ‘I don’t care! Jess is awful! There, I said it!’

God knows, I love the Archers. I listen to it religiously (in that I pray a lot during it, mainly in the hope that Shula and Helen will be absent and Kate will have contracted a fatal disease). I’ve listened to it for years. Hot damn, I just worked out how many years, then hastily calculated the percentage of my life given over to this dementedly b-movie soap, and had a little cry. Hang on, though, I’ve just remembered that I’m always doing something else while TA is on – loading the dishwasher, for instance, or ironing, eating supper, or having sex – so in fact it’s not been time wasted at all. Phew. I’ll wipe my tears and get on with it.

So yes, I adore TA. But there is one teensy little thing that makes me cross, yes, only one, or at least, only one that I am going to focus on right now. And that is the pitiful attempts of the script-writers to try and force us to have particular opinions about characters, when clearly we are grown-up enough to make up our own minds. The most recent and egregious example of this concerns bloody Jess, Rob’s slightly-estranged wife, who’s finally been cast, I mean, finally turned up in Ambridge.

Sidebar: Blimey, that Rob can’t half pick ‘em! I mean, Helen AND Jess? And yet he apparently has enough physical va-va-voom to be cast as sexy Robin Hood, so could surely bag someone decent.

Continue reading

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The Archers: The Archers Pause

The Archers is currently running two stressful storylines (s.s.). We all find different things stressful, of course. My high watermark of nerve-wracking  entertainment is the movie Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, which I can only tolerate if I’m feverishly drunk. It’s all those misunderstandings, the will they won’t they get together, the nearly and almost, that do me in. (Spoiler: they fall in love eventually, though not before your correspondent is a wrung-out wreck. An inebriated wrung-out wreck.)

The first s.s. in the Archers’ current roster is the clunkily-written and embarrassingly-acted David and Ruth being menaced thing, which consists of the following: a baddie (you know he’s a baddie because he’s played by someone who sounds like Clive Horribin, in fact he might well be Clive Horrobin as there isn’t really room for more than one baddie in Borsetshire), phones up and says something mildly threatening. David and Ruth then panic and buy security cameras even though we thought they’d spent all their money on the Olympic-style opening ceremony  for their new slurry tank, which featured poetry from Bert Fry and cup-cakes. Sometimes when I write about the Archers I can scarcely believe my own eyes at the words that come out.  Did we really listen to a slurry tank party? Anyway, then there’s some stuff about how Josh/Ben (interchangeably annoying boys) want to ride their bikes to Hollerton and Ruth/David (interchangeably annoying parents) are worried in case the phone baddie does something bad off the phone. See? Stressful. Josh’s acting, in particular.

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Desert Island Discs: John Prescott

A public school education can be like slapping on an expensive set of veneers. You get something blindingly shiny, but you  wonder what they’re hiding. You only have to watch five minutes of Made in Chelsea to see how some of those who have been brought up to think they deserve to rule the world, have a forcefield of braying confidence which seems to substitute for brains, actual talent or a decent personality.

I also count amongst my friends, many decent men and women emotionally messed up by their experiences of boarding school. It’s not Hogwarts. Harry Potter, like Malory Towers and St Clare’s, portrays a preposterously positive vision of boarding school. Lord of the Flies with plusher furnishings and rugby pitches is more like it. And, to think, Parliament always has been dominated by public school boys. God help us all.

So it was refreshing to hear Secondary Modern-educated John Prescott (technically, Baron Prescott of Kingston upon Hull) on Desert Island Discs. He’s not a man to whom the word ‘slick’ would ever apply, but he’s so much more interesting than Cameron and Osborne ever will be. He shone in this interview. In contrast to them, and despite all of his achievements, his self belief is low. He finds walking into restaurants alone impossibly stressful. It’s clear that there are parts of him that are messy and chaotic, and equally clear he’s done some dumb stuff. The Jags, the affair. I’m not counting the punch, because although it was politically unwise, it was also done rather superbly (not that I condone punching people of course). But he admits his faults, and what also comes across is that he’s sincere, fascinating, and in many ways, remarkable. And he genuinely admires and adores his family. This was a man taunted and tormented in Parliament for being working class, Northern and not having the slick schtick of the braying Hooray Henries. But I think, it’s evident in this programme, that he will be remembered long after they’ve merged into one unmemorable pile of beige, over-privileged bores.

If you’re quick you can catch it on iPlayer. Well worth a listen.

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The Archers: I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky

SPOILER ALERT! Contains speculation about future plot twist that actually you have probably also guessed, as I have, because it’s not exactly been foreshadowed in particularly subtle a fashion.

What I love about the Archers is the way they can so easily wrong-foot me.  I’d just settled in for the duration, expecting nothing more from the next few weeks than a boring string of episodes about Cloive being dull-ly menacing, the Bridge Farm rebranding, and Linda’s death-where-is-thy-sting Christmas show. Then they sprang a Kylie/Sharon/John reversal on me and it got all interesting again.

For those of you who had better things to do than listen to the Archers when you were young, here’s a quick primer on these unfamiliar characters. Back in the day, a young slapper named Sharon with a cracking West Country burr lived in a caravan in Ambridge. She was the type who called people ‘Moi bird, moi duck, moi lover,’ when she was just buying fags down the shop. Her small daughter was called Kylie (pronounced ‘Koylie’), which dates it. I must have missed the episode in which this child was revealed to have been fathered by Cloive (pronounced ‘Cloive’).  Who knows, perhaps I one time went clubbing instead of sitting under a duvet with a transistor radio pressed to my ear.

Anyway, Sharon had long-eschewed Cloive and was having an unpopular affair in her caravan with John Archer, son of Pat and Tony, who some years later had a series of misadventures, nearly married Hayley, then slipped underneath a large Massey Ferguson and thus never had to hear his sister Helen whinge again. Are you still with me? Any road up, long before John got tractored, Sharon had packed up her lovely accent and her daughter and disappeared, much to my chagrin, as she was – remains to this day – the only character I could reliably imitate. When in my cups I can sometimes do Joe Grundy saying ‘afternoon,’ but there’s little call for it, I’ll be honest with you.

So imagine my delight when, after all these years, Susan rang Sharon last week to tell her that Ivy had snuffed it. Ivy being Cloive’s ma, she was thus Koylie’s grannie, not that she’d had much (anything?) to do with her. I had a quiet little wake all by myself when I realised they’d got some Equity Card-punching  nonentity to play Sharon, rather than the real Sharon, and her accent WASN’T RIGHT so no-one would be impressed at the accuracy of my take-off this time round. Not that they were last time now I think on. But I soon got over it when Koylie popped up, being all grown-up now, a student, how time flies etc, and having a good old shout at Cloive at the funeral for being the crappest dad this side of Felpersham.

And then, to runneth my cup right over, Pat started asking pointed questions about the age of Koylie’s younger brother and I realised with heart-stopping delight that this must mean JOHN FATHERED A BABY WHICH NO-ONE KNEW ABOUT! Or Pat’s barking up the wrong tree, but either way we’ll still have all the scrummy DNA testing/family arguments/ Pat and Tony having awkward meetings with Sharon! I CAN’T WAIT! BRING! IT! ON! And get the real Sharon back while you’re at it.

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