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.