Over the last few weeks I’ve come to feel as if I’ve lost a home. I used to laugh at people for listening to the Archers, then I started listening too and got hooked – so when Mark and I got together and I found he was an Archers fan, then Ambridge became a part of our daily schedule. If we didn’t hear it at 7.05 * then we’d listen at two the next afternoon; or failing that, there was always the Sunday morning catch-up. Of course, nowadays with iplayer you don’t even need the repeats; but it was the lynch-pin of our listening schedule. Our radio 4 day begins when we wake with bits of the ‘Today’ programme, then sometimes continues after nine, depending on what’s on (we like ‘Start the Week’ and ‘In our Time’). then at lunchtime there’s ‘The World at One’ and in the evening, ‘PM’. And then the serious listening begins, with the six-thirty comedy slot followed by ‘The Archers’ followed by ‘Front Row’ – a whole slew of programmes to take us deep into the evening, with Brookfield at its heart. But recently I can’t listen to a single episode: the plot has gone completely round the twist and the programmers have driven a major road right through the heart of Ambridge like the one scheduled to cleave Brookfield in two. I can’t be bothered listing all the ridiculous plot-points, the contrived melodramas, the engineered catastrophes that this misguided team of producers has fashioned: whenever I turn it on and listen for a minute or two I hardly know who anyone is or what’s happened to them. Even the actors don’t sound convinced by the lines they’re expected to deliver.
Ambridge and its characters were a part of our lives. I don’t want to sound pompous but there was a kind of unspoken contract between listener and programme maker, and they’ve broken it. Well, not so much broken as driven a bulldozer right through the middle. I will not be listening until someone can prove to me that the Archers has gone back to a state of nature – something which will probably take several years of lying fallow.
*this is of course the time God intended, not this ‘two-minutes-past-seven-after-the-news’ nonsense