There’s a lot of unhappiness swilling around 98.4 FM at 7.02 pm every evening except Saturday. They have made changes to The Archers! How dare they? Actually it’s not so much the fact that they have made changes, it’s the particular changes they’ve made: introducing a lot of new characters at once; having new storylines that you can only follow if you’ve heard ‘Ambridge Extra’, having too many sensational plot-lines, and so on. Now, as I understand it, ‘Ambridge Extra’ is meant to be the teenagers’ room of the series; a place where young people get into a huddle and things go on of which the adults in the house know nothing. If it works properly, when these plot-lines feed into the main series they will bring a knowing smile to the lips of those who have been in the teenagers’ room but – and here’s the key – without disrupting the understanding of those who haven’t. Recently, though, I’ve come across characters I don’t know, voices I don’t recognise, plot-lines I can’t keep up with and frankly struggle to believe – and I’m starting to feel a bit like a stranger in the village.
Rather than listen to ‘Ambridge Extra’ I recommend reading the cartoon strip ‘Unheard-of Ambridge’. This was a series in the Guardian my Merrily Harpur and featuring characters who never appear (though some eventually did) such as Mrs Pargeter, Nigel’s sainted mother; Jean-Paul the chef, Pru Forrest, Ken Ton Archer (the Chinese branch of the family) and of course, the Entity in the Barn Conversion.
I can’t find any examples of the cartoon but here’s a review:
The Year of the Blackberry
This year is turning out to be the year of the blackberry for me: so far I have made a demijohn of blackberry wine, a large jar of blackberry jam and an enormous jar of bramble jelly. This reminds me of a brilliant sketch by the sadly bereaved Ronnie Corbett, in ‘The One Ronnie’:
I have signed up to a site about Leigh, Lancashire, and in the comments on ‘Leyth, Bent and Bongs’ I was reminded of the cartoon in that paper, Sid O’Common. Featuring a flat-capped Andy Capp-type character, the name is a pun on Siddow Common, a local area:
Turns out I couldn’t sign up before because I got the test question wrong. When asked ‘which local town do we mildly hate?’ I thought they were asking my opinion: in fact this was a test of my local knowledge. I got it wrong! Still I got a further question right, once I’d sussed what kind of question it was (the answer, incidentally, was of course Wigan: Wigganers are known to Leythers as ‘pie-eyters’, for some reason I have never been able to fathom.) Incidentally in a bizarre twist, as I was making notes for this post (it’s not just thrown together, you know) a man came on the radio talking about Leigh rugby team. This is of course rugby league, as opposed to rugby union which is an entirely different sport…
Oh no! Did I spell that right? I don’t want to be in trouble with the Gneurggh police.