On different wavelength to darling daughter
SHUSH, I tell the squabbling teenager and near-teen as I turn up the volume on the radio. I want to listen to this. Apparently I’m going to be shaken to the core. Their non-compliance insults the gravity of the situation. So . . . SSSSSHHHSSSSHHH!!!! “Steady on, Dad, what’s the problem?” asks Emma, reading the programme listing over my shoulder. “You’re listening to The Archers?! That’s soooo sad.
“It says the original idea behind the programme was to get information to farmers and smallholders and help raise productivity after the war, when there were food shortages.” She’s shaking her head in disbelief halfway through the sentence. “Hardly CSI Miami, is it, Dad? You need to get out more.”
Well, I like it. The human psyche craves stories: tales that have elements you can identify with and other parts that simply make you scared and/or thankful. Don’t know why; it just comes with our DNA. You’ll change your tune in 20 years, my girl.
The Archers has long been a friend whom one sees for years, is parted from for a time, and then meets again years later – picking up where you left off. In the 1990s I started work in the afternoons and listened on my way to the office as Elizabeth Archer was impregnated and abandoned by cad Cameron Fraser.
In the 2000s, life’s routine found me in the kitchen of a Sunday morning, learning about Brian Aldridge’s infidelity.
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Fast-forward to 8pm, in the wake of the 60th anniversary double episode and Nigel Pargetter’s curdling scream as he slipped to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley Hall while trying to untie a banner: It’s all a bit sad. Not so much because a decent character has gone but that the production team apparently fell victim to the EastEnders/Coronation Street virus and felt the need for a much-trailed Earthshattering Event (ish) to bang the publicity drum.
The Archers is better than that. Besides, it had long been obvious that often-drippy Nigel was lined up as the sacrificial lamb: he wowed them at the village panto and had just given wife Lizzie a renovated brooch that used to belong to his beloved Mummy. Pathos was being painted thickly.
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I repeat: The Archers does not need to compete with blazing pubs or swapped babies.
• Finally, two stray matters to clear up: The flashing reindeer on our garage roof unfortunately wasn’t down by Twelfth Night. For some reason I felt a bit wary about getting the ladder out. I’ll risk the bad luck. Second, Emma, at least I’m not as sad as the 845 people who filed their online tax returns on Christmas Day . . .