Whenever Wayne Tucson strolls into the Bull, I hear a distant Les Paul strum the twelve-bar blues. Wayne’s the sort of chap who woke up this mornin’, found his woman done ditched him, fell over three empty bottles of Jack Daniels, and chucked up in his blue suede shoes. He’s got them clichéd radio-drama hard-livin’ son-of-a-gun blues.
Wayne is Jolene’s ex-husband, and errant father of Fallon. After years of absence due to not having been cast, he burst into our eardrums a couple of months ago and has quickly become my favourite character. Wayne has shaked, rattled and rolled himself into everyone’s affections, by dint of being a gentle, dopey sort with a heart of gold and a rattling Golden Virginia cough. Well, not quite everyone’s affections – Sid and Fallon, you know I’m talking about you. Jolene, however, has always had a soft spot for Wayne. Though things went bad during their marriage, they clearly had once loved as deeply as two people can who are gigging together on the working men’s club circuit. They still have a lot in common, particularly their moveable transatlantic accents. The way Wayne says ‘me darlin’ to Fallon would have Professor Higgins writhing in a frenzy of misplaced dipthongs.
At times, during scenes between Wayne and Jolene, the casual listener mightn’t quite remember what programme they’ve tuned into. This is partly because they are both fine actors – a relative rarity on the Archers – but mainly because their voices start to inadvertently slide companionably down towards the Mason Dixon Line. They start Britishly enough, somewhere between the West Midlands and Somerset, but end, minutes later, in a dead heat in Georgia, leading one to think the dial has slipped to a low-budget dramatisation of Gone with the Wind.
You gotta feel sorry for Sid. Jolene finds Wayne exasperating, sure, as do we all; but she deals with him in such a tender, motherly fashion that poor Sid’s been grinding his teeth to migraine levels. His lines for the last month have consisted of little more than: ‘Is he still here?’ ‘When is he going?’ ‘How long’s he staying then?’ and ‘For fuck’s sake, how soon can you get him out of here?’ (Okay, they’re not allowed to actually say that on Radio 4, but you KNEW he was thinking it.)
When Wayne saved the day by turning out to be good at darts (not often a skill that saves the day, but the Archers is adept at mining bizarre seams), Sid practically had an aneurysm, brought on by pent-up fury. Then when Wayne transpired to be a dab hand in the pub kitchen, sous-cheffing for Freda, who is apparently hard to please, but how would we know as she still hasn’t been cast, despite having been married to Bert for ten times longer than Niles was wed to Maris, Sid really lost it. Jolene had to bring him down from the ceiling by telling him how much bigger his penis was than Wayne’s (see what you miss if you’re snobby about the Archers!), and by reminding him that it was just for Fallon’s sake she wanted Wayne to stick around a little longer. Yeah, right, Jolene – we’re all buying that one.
Finally, Fallon herself crumbled, forgiving Wayne for all the years he hadn’t been there for her, because he stepped in and did the one thing she needed that no-one else could give: namely, find a lead guitarist for her band. Because, you know, there’s a massive shortage of young people in the Birmingham area who can play the guitar. It’s the sort of leap of faith the Archers scriptwriters are overly-reliant upon, but no matter: in Ambridge it seems every young man has learned to play the piccolo except for Wayne’s ex-girlfriend’s son (keep up at the back). Once the lad’s riffing like a good’un at the front of the band, Fallon’s all over Wayne like a rash, helping him smarten up his act, get him a job, and other boring activities we would prefer Wayne leave to lesser men.
Where we want Wayne is in his rightful place by the fire at the centre of the Bull, bantering with the lads, throwing an arrow or two, spinning a BB King track, and bringing a new spark to the dull old deadwood who’ve been propping up the bar since Screaming Jay Hawkins was just a twinkle in Mrs Screaming’s eye.
RIP: Norman Painting (Phil Archer). Retrospective on his invaluable contribution next time.
Posted by Qwerty