Tag Archives: Shula

The Archers: Core-shaking four months on

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.

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The Archers: Whatever happened to all the stories?

I’ve been wondering: where have all the Archers storylines gone? Some of them of course are played out to their natural, often lengthy and tedious, conclusions. But many others just wither on the vine. Sure, some stories which seem to have died prematurely do reappear months or years later, for the Archers has its eye on the long game and thinks little of dragging a plot out over decades. But other have been quietly forgotten. Possibly because they have become a teensy bit embarrassing.

Here are my top five Archers stories which have petered out.

That kid was just a horse substitute, Maisie.

1. Caroline and Oliver fostering. One minute this was all over the programme like a dull but hard-to-ignore rash, the next: nothing. They fostered one kid, I think. Some sullen youth who naturally was brought out of herself (or himself? Stone the crows, my memory) by their upper-class values. Then silence, and no-one ever mentioned it again. 

Way to revive this storyline: Social Services take Hell-en’s baby away from her on the unarguable grounds of her sheer appallingness, and Caroline adopts it.

2. Usha being scared by a man while out running. I’m the only person who remembers this. Even Usha’s forgotten. It wasn’t that long ago, just a bit before she and Alan got married. Some bloke started coming onto Usha in a creepy way, telling her how gorgeous she was which seemed unlikely as she was in her joggers and sweat-bands. She managed to escape, and was terrified when she got home. And then… nothing. This is either a very slow-burning plot in which the creepy man reappears after lying low under a hedge in Eddie’s field, or it’s been ditched as being too similar to other creepy goings-on such as Josh leaving chocolates for Emma (yeugh), and Owen the Rapist. 

Way to revive this storyline: Creepy man can attack Kate while she is coming back from Felpersham College. Or he can attack Hell-en on her way back from maternity yoga. Or anyone else I don’t like on their way back from anywhere.

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The Archers: The Odd Couples

I'd rather be at Jax

So Kenton and Kathy have split asunder eh? Well, you might say you were surprised they’d lasted so long, and you might be right. But in the Archers even the most implausible couples plod on and on for all eternity; there’s rarely any call for mediation. So although in the real world Kathy and Kenton wouldn’t have lasted five minutes, there are plenty of other couples whose continuing existence ought to bring a large delegation from Relate to look and marvel and maybe give out certificates.

Alistair & Shula – Frankly they’re an incredible couple, and I use the word in its old sense, meaning it defies credibility. Poor old Alistair has had several chances to make it out of Shula’s gnarled clutches, including before their ill-fated nuptials when she shagged Richard Lock. That was a perfect opportunity for Alistair to pack his possessions in a large spotty hankie and make merrily for the open road but like an oaf, he forgave her. A mere couple of years later she had turned him into a sulking, misanthropic gambler.      Real-world relationship rating (RRR): By now he’d have had an affair with the receptionist at his vets practice, twisted the will in his favour, and buried Shula beneath the stables. And there ain’t a jury in the land that would convict him.

Eddie and Clarrie – Given that Clarrie is resourceful, respectable and earns her own income, her mystifying willingness to stick around can only mean one thing: that this is fiction. Not that I was in any doubt, obviously (ahem). Eddie has settled down a bit lately, but he has always been and always will be a wastrel, a chancer, a ne’er-do-well, whose only contribution to the household is to make Clarrie wail, ‘Ohhh EDDDDDDIE!’ at regular intervals.     RRR: Clarrie would have quickly remarried an estate agent called Roger, and be having a nice middle-class life with a hostess trolley. Occasionally she would think of her brief sojourn in Meadow Rise, and shudder. Eddie would be living in a static caravan with some drunken trollop who’s no better than she oughta.

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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: A riot of ennui

And cut! Grandma, can you tell us how you did that pattern on the top? Wake up, Grandma.

Everyone’s got their favourite. I’ve got loads. My most recent is from just the other day. It’s the one where Josh films Jill making steak and kidney pie. He might just as well have painted a wall and set the camera to record it for fifteen minutes. If I tell you that the only vaguely interesting thing that happened was Kenton referring to the pie as ‘snake and pygmy’, it’ll give you some idea.

Boring episodes of the Archers. Lord knows, there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from. All which feature the flower and produce show, for instance; and there’s so many of those, is it any wonder that Bert Fry has taken to phoning in his surprise at being awarded a rosette for the biggest marrow? All which centre around harvest festival, Easter or other Anglican red-letter day, and their counterpart, any based round a service in St Stephens, can be added to the teetering mound of mundanity. And naturally, any one in which Tom reveals that his sausages are organic. The presence of Tom alone counteracts any other possible excitement. He neutralises heists, earthquakes and Lilian’s giggle at a stroke.

Fanoflinda recalls fondly a particularly soporific episode in which Phil (god rest his soul) and Jill were showing holiday snaps. ‘Look at Jill in that hat!’ the poor actors were forced to cry. You could hear the sounds of their careers being flushed down the toilet – or you would have, if the flushing loo sound effect hadn’t been deemed too interesting.

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The Archers: Enough advice, already

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?

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The Archers: The Curse of Ambridge

Does Jazzer know his elbow from his, er, derriere?

Like other pre-watershed soaps, the Archers is generally a haven of sedate language. The earthiest characters such as Jazzer and Ed, who in real life would be effing away on an every-other-word basis, restrict themselves, even in extremis, to ‘blimmin’ heck’.  Just this week, when Jazzer made a twat of himself in front of Fallon, he said, ‘She thinks I’m a prize idiot’ instead of something more plausible, and when Tom suggested he talk to her, Jazzer said she would doubtless ‘throw me out on my elbow’. He gave a little pause before ‘elbow’, making us wonder if he was preparing for authenticity, but the moment passed and we were back in Borsetshire: The County that Doesn’t Curse.

Or does it?

Over the years, there have been a few times when Archers characters have run amok and said a naughty. I’m pretty sure there’s never been an f or c word spoken. But even the milder profanities have the power to shock when heard in Ambridge, because of their rarity. I will never forget when Brian, after admitting to his affair with Siobhan, gave Jenny a bottle of perfume, and she threw it right back at him, spitting, ‘Give it to your whore!’ Mr Qwerty and I were completely riveted, forks suspended in mid-air. We sat in awed silence for fully twenty seconds, then both screamed, ‘WHAT did she say?’ We just couldn’t believe it.

Oy Sid, some b****r's gone and squealed on us (BBC R4 photo)

Swearing in the Archers can be divided into three categories. Category 1 is swearing which has definitely taken place. With the help of some lovely contributors to the Radio 4 Archers message-board, I have uncovered a number of these, such as the time Eddie told Kathy that Sid was shagging Jolene. That was a cracking scene. I remember the tension of it well but had totally forgotten that Eddie said ‘shagging’. While not exactly an expletive, it’s probably not the sort of thing you would say in front of Peggy. It was also used by young Alice, again in reference to Brian and Siobhan, making this story-line the one that really brought home the profane trophy.

Talking of things you wouldn’t say in front of Peggy…

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