Constancy, consistency and other things beginning with the letter ‘C’.
These are important and we need to have them in our lives. Well, my life anyway. Because I am a simple buffoon and need support mechanisms to stabilise my environment.
My universe trembled when Opal Fruits became Starburst.
But when Marathon became Snickers, I had a mental earthquake of tectonic-plate proportions.
However, I barely noticed when GMTV became, erm, umm, whatever it is called now.
But there is an antidote to the continual cycle of change that we face, erm, continually.
I give you, my friends…
Since the pilot episode was broadcast 257 million years ago on 2nd June 1950, the affairs of the inhabitants of the fictional country village of Ambridge, that nestles in the fictional county of Borsetshire, have amused and entertained a worldwide audience.
My parents used to listen to The Archers. Every night at 7.05pm the familiar ‘Dum tee dum tee dum tee dum’ theme would echo around the kitchen as my siblings and I were strapped in to our gimp masks told to be quiet for the next twenty minutes. And on weekends, lucky kids that we were, we got to listen to it all over again; the Sunday omnibus episode accompanied lunch preparation.
One day, at university, I was caught having a secret Archers-fest by two of my housemates. Within three weeks the entire house was infected. That’s the pattern.
Some years later I noticed a serious omission. I dropped the new producer of The Archers a friendly line, pointing out the error. That led to me enjoying The Archers in a new way as, for the next six months, I wrote as a consultant for the show.
And then, years later, the relationship started falling apart, as long-term relationships sometimes do when one of the parties stops keeping it real. I realised that The Archers had lost the plot. The London- and Birmingham-based writers had tried to squeeze one too many city-based plot developments in to a small west-Midlands village.
We talked about it, the radio and I. We decided that we needed a clean break. I couldn’t take the show seriously, and it said it needed to move on and ‘become its own show’. The split was painful, but a succession of Friday night C4 sitcoms watched on Sunday mornings helped take the pain away.
And then, last weekend, my bride of 30 years thirty-year-old wife was listening to an episode. So I listened too. They are still knocking around, my former alleged countryfolk friends. There’s Roof, the improbable Geordie farmstress; Dearvid, her husband; the Aldridges; the Woollies and the Grundies.
In some ways the show has hardly changed, in other ways it’s gone beyond a joke.
This week’s plot was being held together by bailer twine and a highly implausible ‘hay-rustling’ storyline, with Dearvid carrying out a telephone inquisition like a posh, English, country-dwelling Clousea. And he did the job about as competently as Clousea.
I’m glad that the show is still battling on. I’m glad that the listenership is flourishing. I’m also glad that the tentacles of The Archers continue to reach in to the hearts and heads of an increasingly younger audience. But I’m sad that the show has still lost the plot.
Even though I listened for a mere ten minutes – and that listening was done from another level of the house – it is blindingly obvious that the show continues to be driven by the London- and Birmingham-based townies who, let’s face it, wouldn’t know a power take-off on a Massey from a metal curry comb.
You can get addicted to The Archers on Radio 4 in the evenings at 7.03, or at 10am on Sundays for the omnibus edition. But don’t do it. It’s fiction, you know.
As if you didn’t know already.