Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Rhys and Fallon and Paul and Lillian- November in Ambridge

AND IT'S LEGOVER MONTH in Ambridge. Perhaps Welsh barman and all round bore, Rhys Williams, was so impressed with Fallon Rogers's suggestion of bringing board games into the wine bar for customers to enjoy that he simply could not keep his hands off her a second longer or, most like, just looked at her name newly written above the door of Jaxx place and decided it was high time that she did.

And just to prove that it is not just the youngsters of Ambridge who know how to make the beast of two backs ageing, gin swilling, chain smoking Lillian Bellamy has got back in the saddle again and is having a fling with the brother of live-in lover and long time business partner, Matt Crawford. Both of these actions showing just how desperately stocked Ambridge and the surrounding highways and by-ways of Borsetshire are for men, if women are reduced to sharing their beds with such utter dullards as these two sorry specimens.

Ambridge has never been a stranger to titanic bores although the scriptwriters have unearthed a pair of rare gems to inflict on an undeserving, and fast dwindling, listenership. Lillian's son James has come to stay because he has damaged his leg in an accident and is re-united with Robert Snell's middle aged Sloane of a daughter, Leonie. For some reason Lillian's  Dower House only boasts one bath room and one reception room and it would appear that the venue for James and Leonie's love making is always one or the other. Apart from creating a couple who are so uniquely unappealing it would appear the Archers' scriptwriters have no idea that a Dower House is invariably a large property, usually the second largest in any village.

However whilst James and Leonie bray at one another in terms of nauseating endearment in between playing patient and nursemaid another pair have finally been separated, and not before time many listeners would say. Joyce and Arthur Walters are so delightful, caring, thoughtful, understanding and sympathetic an old couple they make any normal human being want to choke them. That they have been so badly treated by wicked landlord Matt in his efforts to get them to vacate one of his properties has made even the most sympathetic listener want to cheer. But now Arthur has died, which has been greeted as rapturously by many as the demise of Little  Nell in the Old Curiosity Shop.

And while all this has been going on Tom Archer, who is always far too busy with his sausage meat empire to contemplate having sex with his girlfriend, Brenda, has been pioneering a new product: Christmas hampers containing pork based deep frozen ready meals. Amazingly it seems these are proving as popular with residents as Grundy Christmas turkeys. Which just goes to show that it is not only in the choice of lovers that Ambridge residents' tastes veer towards the imbecilic.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Gold Tops of Wrath- October in Ambridge

OCTOBER SAW woe, woe and thrice woe heaped on the most junior house of Grundy. Ed and Emma, plus baby Keira and tug of love child, George, are plunged into a state of poverty that even John Steinbeck's hard pressed sharecroppers would consider most unfortunate.

Remarkably Ed has seen it as unnecessary to discuss his current plight with either Mike Tucker, who delivers the milk he produces, or Oliver Stirling, who helped set up the original enterprise and was so supportive

when Ed had his brief flirtation with hard drugs and alcohol, something he  recovered from at a truly remarkable rate.

The Grundy dining table is as sparse as old Mother Hubbard's cupboard despite Ed's dad being the most prolific poacher in Ambridge. And it is not illegal to shoot to snare rabbits or even recruit some of Eddy's ferrets assuming Gran'pa Jo has not run amok with the claw hammer again. Yet all there is to eat is fish paste sandwiches and sometimes not enough bread to make a sandwich. Then it is just fish paste.

This chronic food shortage is even odder given the number of people in Ambridge who keep hens. Presumably not all the eggs are eaten as some must be left over to replenish the flock and, as any poultry keeper worth their salt will tell you, the bulk of the hatchlings are invariably cockerels so there is another cheap meal available just around the corner.

And to make matters worse, first Grundy husband and father of George, the arrogant, overbearing and comparatively well off William has been treating George to Hallowe'en outfits and days out that his mother and step father can only dream of. Having bought George a pet Guinea pig Ed and Emma are concerned they will not have enough money to afford to feed it. Mind you, if Ed has much more fish paste, the hapless Guinea pig could well end up as Sunday lunch.

Poor Emma has been transformed into a moaning, sad young woman who is incapable of securing anything but the most casual of casual work. Yet while she struggles to earn enough for the next jar of fish paste her father is willing to pay £20 a week for Josh Archer to look after his hens, subject to a three month probationary period.

Quite why it will take three months to ascertain if Josh has what it takes to collect eggs each morning, feed the hens and water them before locking them all up again at night is entirely unclear. But not nearly as unclear as why he did not offer the job to Emma who would have been able to splurge on fish paste with that amount coming in each week. It seems that in order to have any chance of making a successful career for yourself in Ambridge you have to be, or at least marry, someone named Archer.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It's sad life and then you die- September in Ambridge

THE YOUNG OF AMBRIDGE have a throughly miserable time of it. Firstly there is the heated debate, usually chaired by aged left wing earth mother, Jill Archer, about the sheer iniquity of receiving a private rather than state education. Invariably secondary school education is at Borchester Green comprehensive before the really gifted head for the University of Felpersham which appears to offer everything from sandwich courses in sandwich making to masters' degrees in Canadian Studies.

Of the great Archer clan only Debbie Aldridge went to a university listeners would recognise, and even she dropped out of Exeter before her final degree, in order that she could take up with the lecturer in Canadian Studies at Felpersham University. For the rest it is agricultural college or nothing. Having completed their studies none of the young ever move away from the place but remain in the open prison that is Ambridge with only the occasional new inmate to socialise with as well as the inevitable long term lags and trusties.

This month has seen the young of the village experiencing desperate times for widely varying reasons. Fallon Rodgers, a young woman who seemed set to make something of herself despite having parents who would convince most that being an orphan was preferable, seems to have jettisoned her musical aspirations in order to find love with whatever pitiful Ambridge male she can.

Harry, the grey and wearisome young barman she went on holiday with to Edinburgh, decided that he was really gay despite never having shown any signs or mentioned it previously. This month we have seen her fretting over what to wear when treated to a night out with Rhys, another barman who makes Harry look like riveting company. Rhys is so Welsh that any minute now we expect him to shout 'Oggy, oggy, oggy' and break into a selection of ballads by Max Boyce. Different accents are helpful to identify characters in radio drama but the Archers is turning into a farcical league of nations.

Elsewhere Ed, who seemed to be on the verge of achieving what no Grundy ever seemed capable of namely making a success of himself through hard work, is for some reason plunged into economic misery. His dairy herd seems to be incurring huge losses whilst the Archer clan have no trouble at all in making money from their milk. He and his young wife Emma are getting increasingly fractious with one another, often over the fact that they seem to be unable to afford even a loaf of bread.

And then there is the dynamic, work obsessed duo of Tom Archer and his long suffering girl friend and fiancee, Brenda Tucker. These two only speak about business to one another and the bulk of their conversation merely concerns how busy they constantly are. Brenda is another apparently bright girl who turned her back on a sensible career outside Ambridge in order to drudge secretarially for spiv property dealer, Matt Crawford, when not serving burgers from her boyfriend's van.

Tom Archer seems to have access to a line of credit that most of us, and especially Ed Grundy, can only dream of. This month he is gearing up to launch a huge order of ready made meals without anything as tedious as premises or distribution networks. He is the Borchester equivalent of Blackadder's Baldrick, always with a cunning plan that will transform any tricky situation. He is arrogant, far fetched and thoroughly unlikeable which should certainly make him a major hit with all the hard up, under achieving and lonely young women of Ambridge.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Watch out here comes another 'Issue'- August in Ambridge

You wait for years for a gay man to appear and then five come along all at once. August has been a hectic time for Archers scriptwriters trying to cram a bundle of big issues into a programme only geared for a few small ones.

So let's kick off with all these gay men. When moody Adam Macy came back from his goat rearing activities somewhere in Africa he, much to his mother's utter delight, announced he was gay. This allowed him to form an almost immediate deep and loving relationship with the Happy Eater, chef Ian Craig, who chuckles his way through every eventuality and must be the least highly strung head chef in the universe.

But this month Adam has found another gay man in the earnest form of immigrant farm labourer, Polish Pavel, who yearns for a truly green farming agenda and a much closer relationship with moody Adam after a one night fling in an unspecified, but we trust indoor, venue.

And while all this was going on, Harry, without question one of the dullest creations since the mind numbing days of Ashok the Asian artist, went on holiday with Ambridge's most eligible young female only to find love with a former and previously entirely unmentioned boyfriend. Quite why he did not hang around a bit longer, save the petrol money for the car trip to Edinburgh, and find love in the mature but thoughtful arms of Polish Pavel can only be conjectured. But thankfully we appear to have seen the last of Harry so should not complain.

And while gay love was blossoming the extremely vulgar Vicky was doing her bit for those of a heterosexual persuasion discovering that husband, Mike Tucker, and she are about to have a baby despite Mike being only a very short tractor ride from his old age pension. No sensible book maker, or indeed listener, would have bet against there being a problem with the unborn child and within days of the announcement another one was made- the baby had Downs Syndrome. Listeners are preparing for the usual Archers 'Big Issue' spectacular, namely debates and interviews with female cast members on Woman's Hour, flurries of letters to Feedback, spooky sounding trailers and, of course, the obligatory BBC Helpline for those who have been affected by the storyline.

Some would say this is sheer cynicism by The Archers producers and editor to chime in with the courage of Para-Olympians. Although they will most certainly say, in that superior way they so often have, that they are merely tackling the tough moral issues of the day in a most realistic way. However as editor on vacation, Vanessa Whitburn, has said in the past that she would not employ an actor who had to play a wheelchair bound character unless they really were in a wheelchair, it will be most interesting to see if she is preparing to employ an actor with Downs Syndrome should the Tuckers go ahead with the birth.

And finally, the cosy, smug and downright infuriating Archers of Brookfield, having been threatened with dire physical violence, had a sheep killed and a barn set light by the bad boys of Ambridge will not have to appear in court because amateur arsonist, Keith Horrobin, and whoever else was involved in a burgle to order business have all thrown their hands up and confessed to a man. Such is David Archer's relief at this that he has shown just what sort of chap he is by arranging a celebratory picnic at his farm for his family with his mother doing all the cooking.

At least it will take our minds off the 'Great Autumn Dilemma' of Mike and Vicky, even if it will not generate nearly as much free publicity as this latest effort by the Archers production team to end the ever increasing number of listeners who are simply switching the programme off.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Farmageddon- A dark July in Ambridge

Well that's got one more nasty piece of work banged to rights! And let no one say Keith Horrobin didn't have it coming, if only because his name was Horrobin. The Horrobins of Ambridge make the workshy Grundys look like bluebloods although it does seem odd that Keith and his brother Clive both favour arson as their preferred violent act of choice. Were they deprived heating as children? And, if this runs in the family, can it be long before hapless drudge Neil Carter starts to fret when his wildly aspirational wife, Susan (nee´ Horrobin) decides the only thing lacking in the family dream home is a nice, wide open fireplace?

As audiences for The Archers slump by some 400,000 efforts to make the show grittier and appeal more to young people seem doomed to failure. If anything the storylines have got far more fragmented so the listener is not entirely sure if this is geared to perceived shorter attention spans or if the script writers have simply forgotten about things. There certainly is not much farming to be had and, despite awful weather for the last three months, no one in Ambridge has had any problems with hay making or with their potato crop.

What we have had has been far fetched and the basic staple of TV soaps. The continuing threats on life and limb on all those at Brookfield, oh if only some one would actually carry these out, ceased as soon as Keith Horrobin was arrested although sister Tracy continues to protest his innocence and maintain he is 'in bits'. Susan, being clearly no brighter than her sister, has been accusing daughter Emma of fabricating evidence on the bizarre basis that, having slept with both Grundy brothers, she was unsure of who the father of her first born was.

Elsewhere, Adam Macey is in a sulk which comes as no surprise as he is pretty much always in a sulk, because wicked step father Brian, who paid for the house he shares with his boyfriend, and also pays his wages is not prepared to farm just the way Adam wants. While Adam has embarked on his latest sulk we have seen the appearance of another Eastern European, who certainly appear to be all the rage in Ambridge at the moment. The latest one is a Polish migrant worker called Pavel who is a walking encyclopaedia of best green farm practices who also seems to have taken a shine to Adam. Thus we are faced with the thorny prospect of three making Adam's gay marriage to jocular chef Ian a little crowded.

And finally, just to allow those crossover moments in radio programming of which BBC radio is so fond, the adenoidal Vicki Tucker, is pregnant. Thus, given that Vicki is certainly well past her first and second flushes of youth and her husband, boorish Mike, is almost at pensionable age, we seem destined to have a mature woman's view of pregnancy foisted on us by, not only The Archers, but also Woman's Hour which regularly picks up on the female side of life in Ambridge.

Ambridge is always at its best when little happens and the seasons roll by interspersed with planting, harvest and horticultural shows. Vanessa Whitburn brought a political and urban agenda to Ambridge and interim editor, John Yorke, wants to make things 'darker and bigger.' But the only thing that appears to be getting bigger is the cast-list and rather than look at the dark side of farming and the struggle many have to survive we are being delivered sensationalist, short term scripts  that are neither credible nor satisfying. It looks as though listeners will continue to jump ship and who can blame them?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sex and Violence round up- another month in Ambridge

IT IS MORAL DILEMMA time in Ambridge as sex and violence replaces home baked scones and casserole. This month listeners to Radio Four's everyday story of country folk have been treated to a mutilated sheep, al fresco sex, lots of threatening telephone calls and a whole load of bullocks.  A Sicilian style vendetta has come to the polyglot and deeply liberal village, as the BBC production team tenaciously attempts to woo younger listeners, possibly by shocking the established, largely pensionable audience into a much needed date with Classic FM.

Or maybe simply by irritating the long term listeners sufficiently they switch off as Archers scripts get stranger by the week with new characters popping up in much the same way the barley and wheat once did. The main plank of June's storylines has been two families in turmoil. We have endured Amy Franks, the Vicar's daughter, continued insistence that a man she has been dating for no more than eight weeks is unmarried and really, really loves her despite never seeing her at weekends. Amy has been throughly beastly to her step mother, the saintly Usha, not even sending her a birthday card on reaching 50. Yes, as beastly as that.

Then there are the curious goings on at Brookfield where David Archer has spotted who it was that beat up highly strung Adam Travers-Macey for reasons that still remain wholly unclear to us listeners. The gang has taken to scaring David into refusing to testify by turning loose a herd of bullocks on Open Farm Sunday, an event Britain's farmers are doubtless delighted to hear, that only takes place in Ambridge. And the youngest of the Archer clan, Ben, found a badly mutilated ram in a field although it would have been much more fun had its head been discovered between the Brookfield  sheets.

But when the insufferably smug, Pip, received a threatening phone call Ruth Archer decided there was only one thing to do- cave in. She has been abetted in her efforts to stop David testifying by a most unlikely source, Jill, her mother in law. Given that Jill's late husband was a magistrate and is always quick to deliver a potted lecture to anyone about doing the right thing, it seems inconceivable for her to agree to let violent criminals remain abroad but that is her chosen course. Ruth has even approached the victim, Adam, and told him that he too must persuade David to keep quiet despite suffering head injuries that could have been life threatening. Ruth's crassness never fails to amaze.

And while Amy was wrestling with her conscience about Usha and Ruth was wrestling with everyone else's the rolling vowelled Will Grundy was off in the woods having open air sex with his partner Nic, who has decided she wants a baby immediately and there is simply no time to lose.

Older listeners will long for the days of  game keepers Tom Forrest and George Barford who spent all their waking hours patrolling the woodlands of Ambridge. Will and Nic would certainly now be full of buckshot and more than likely stuffed and mounted.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Silly season comes early in Ambridge-Archers Round-up for May

David Archer is a hot headed ass. According to editor on leave, Vanessa Whitburn, the Archers of Brookfield are the moral compass of the story. Well if badger shooting, dumping hundredweights of cow muck in someone else's garden and failing to protect your family from dastardly villains is David being moral someone has clearly trodden down hard on the compass.

In this month's Archers two major events have taken place. Firstly, moody, spoilt and petulant Adam Travers-Macy has been banged over the head by rural ne'er-do-wells and David Archer managed to get a glimpse of them as they sped away.

Secondly, moody, spoilt and petulant vicar's daughter Amy Franks has discovered that her good looking boyfriend of all of eight weeks, who supposedly spends every weekend visiting his dear old West Indian grandmother, is not actually visiting her at all but is married. Carl, the married boyfriend, must be as thick as David Archer because he attended a business function for lawyers with his wife, herself a lawyer, and was spotted by Amy's step mother, the saintly Usha, and Annabelle Shrivener, another lawyer who appeared to be on good terms with Carl's wife. Amy is now having hysterics because Usha did not tell her before Carl ditched her. Quite how anyone could spend more than a few moments in Amy's suffocating company is unclear.

However, her father, Alan the do-gooding vicar of Ambridge,  in an effort to console Amy is now talking to her as one would a five year old who has not only fallen and grazed their knee but has simultaneously not been invited to a fellow five year old's birthday party, thereby missing out on a chance to wear a new party dress and eat lots of jelly. And the vicar's cloying ministrations do not seem to be doing any good.

Back at Brookfield Ruth and David are being menaced by a phantom caller, with a broad Mummerset accent, warning off David from testifying in court or else dire repercussions will result. The direst of these repercussions so far have been the appearance of a local newspaper in Archer's tractor cab and a light taken out with an air gun. Hardly Reggie and Ronnie Kray but dopey David still won't call the police despite Ruth going into one of her hysterical, shouty phases which take place about once a week simply to keep her larynx in good working order.

Quite why she does not call the police is anybody's guess so listeners are waiting to see what ghastly deed will fall upon the house of Archer, with many Archers' fans fervently hoping something truly awful, fatal even, will occur to at least one of David, Ruth or their insufferably smug daughter, Pip. With villains like these we should not be at all surprised if one or all of them are not tied to the railway line as the midday Hollerton Junction express comes steaming round the bend.