In 2019 I kept an Archers Diary (see here), as I did in 2018 (see here). Both years these were my most widely read online writings. I updated my diaries from time to time, typically when I felt like it but at least once a month or more often when interesting things were happening. It helped me to get off my chest my thoughts on the latest happenings in Ambridge, serving as personal therapy. I tried to listen to each episode when broadcasts went out or on catch up. I wrote offering my own two penneth to any who may be interested. I intend to do much the same with my 2020 Archers diary, and wish fellow Archer’s fans many hours of fascinating listening.
I come to the last day in the year and with it comes the last entry of my 2020 Archers diary, which will probably be my last. All good things come to an end. Having kept diaries in 2018 and 2019, following having written about the best Archers story line ever – the saga of Rob and Helen, I have decided not to do a diary for 2021.
I have been an Archers fan for fifty years and however bad the scripts are etc. I expect to remain so until the day I die, including not missing an episode thanks to Archers podcasts. Sometimes good things have to come to end. While Corona lockdown has meant changes for the worse, including losing two episodes a week, a season of running past episodes and monologue experiments and my losing social media outlets for posting Archers related thoughts, the truth is I have lost interest in regular Archers diary writing.
I suppose, in keeping with the needing to have a social edge preoccupation of the script writers, touching on hot issues of the day, there will inevitably be storylines to keep one fixated, wondering what next. While episodes relating to Helen’s experience of domestic violence have yet to be bettered, those relating to Philip’s horse trading / modern slavery and Alice’s fight with alcoholism have been realistic and gripping, touching on real issues.
It is difficult to think of stand out stories other than these but I’ll try and again to give scriptwriters their credit they are ones I did not see coming: Freddy pulling off the Christmas show, Eddie looking for buried treasure at Brookfield and an unlikely friendship that might go further between Elizabeth and Vince. One highlight is following Susan’s short career as a radio presenter. And always there is Tracy, who can be relied on for brightening the show and bringing cheer, ending the year on a note of passion with, of all people, Jazzer.
My champagne moment has to go to Peggy Woolley, who in the past I have not been endeared much toward because of her frequent sanctimonious prejudice, but in the final episode of the year not only hit the nail on the head counseling Chris regarding Alice’s drinking based on her own painful experience but beautifully read a poem. “Such a poignant poem as we say goodbye to 2020. June Spencer reads Ring Out, Wild Bells by Tennyson and she does it beautifully” and “The Archers’ June Spencer on turning 100: ‘If I close my eyes I can be any age‘” relate.
So with that, I sign off and wish any one reading this a Happy 2021. And as The Archers celebrate its 70th anniversary I wish to thank the cast and scriptwriters for keeping my favourite show on the road and wish fans many more hours of happy Archers listening.
A month has gone since last posting and Archers episodes are not as we are used to. Little did I realise when I last posted that the BBC had run out of episodes to play due to actors not attending sessions because of Corona lockdown. So after a couple of weeks playing blasts from the past (which didn’t enthuse over much tbh) an innovation. It was realised that actors can do their bit from home and what we ended with each episode are a couple of monologues. Does it work? yes and no. Yes, because of the fresh, more in depth insights into the characters and happenings around Ambridge from doing the monologues, which one might expect would attract geeky types, and no because with the best intention it is not very convincing – but at least better than no Archers at all – and we still wait on tenterhooks to find out if Philip Moss gets his deserved comeuppance. This format did bring at least two possible champagne moments though. The first was Tracey’s attempts (successful it turns out) in becoming captain of the village cricket team and then there was Susan’s unexpected, starring role as a Radio Borsetshire presenter. The turn of fortune, when she thought she might have to leave the village through shame, having been carried away by revealing too much about her sex life, and then despair turning to delight when finding out her authenticity was what people liked was a delight to have have beheld. I think this time my champagne moment has to go to Susan!
Six weeks is a long time between diary entries and given we are in lockdown mode and I am one of those who is supposedly confined to barracks, it might be expected that I would have more time on my hands. Besides getting a life, I suppose my excuse is this is a surreal time and I haven’t been chomping at the bit to add my two penneth as I have more recently. The surrealness is not one word about COVID-19, which the pre-show announcers never stop reminding us. Like so many, producers have been taken aback by how quickly real life events have happened and have been unable to cleverly factor this in because of the lockdown. It now appears having stopped the Friday broadcast we are soon to be given repeats unless they get high tech to help compile episodes over the ether.
The big story is affable, big hearted Phillip is now revealed as a villain just as not so long ago it was Rob of coercive control fame (and it is not just his nasty son, Gav). The issue is a biggie – modern day slavery, and while enough to keep us on tenterhooks, unlike the Rob and Helen storyline it is not altogether convincing. One hopes that before she marries Phillip next week, loyal, trusting Kirsty and hapless, well meaning Roy and now in recovery mode Lindy, helped by Sergeant Plod (aka Harrison) and anyone else who can help, can join the dots before it is too late. It seems this has dwarfed other stories and while it is great Lindy is better and coming to terms slowly with life following the accident, not helped by annoying Robert, it is the nearest to what else to talk about. There is of course Ed and Emma getting back together and it is difficult not to feel happy for them. Rewilding and goody two shoes Shula’s vicar interview, continues to invoke yawns. What else – ahh the cricket season is with us, and once again the champagne moment since last times goes to Tracy and her roping in of Lee to conduct training!
Sometimes, one event can overshadow all other events, however significant, as we have seen with the recent Coronavirus outbreak. In Ambridge, that applies to the hardly could have been anticipated explosion that occurred at Grey Gables last Sunday evening, which we now know was caused by workman neglect, even though Philip was trying to do a favour, but it is now looking like it was new villain in the Soap, Gavin, who was to blame. I have to confess, initially I was not impressed but as I reflect I think the script writers have done a good job by involving different members of the cast and bearing in mind it all happened so quickly and with shock playing a big part. There is Lynda on the critical list, along with not properly supervised, Blake; hero of the hour, Freddie; Roy, creditably managing a difficult situation; distraught Robert, looking for someone to blame; sanctimonious Shula, with her prayers; Russ, speaking common sense; the unlikely stepping up to the plate supportive friends: Jim and Lillian; Oliver, blaming himself and evidently still not over the shock of losing his beloved Caroline; loyal and kindly, Kirstie and good friend, judgmental gossip combined, Tracey, being herself and poor Philip. In all, it has been a good week for Archers listeners, if only because of the human drama unfolding and being on tenterhooks of what will happen next.
It has been six weeks since I added to my Archers 2020 diary, which suggests two things: I am getting a life at last and there is little sufficiently stirring me to want to add to it. I think the Archers suffers sometimes from having too much going on and as soon as things get interesting in one storyline we move on to the next with little actually getting resolved. Referring back to my 18/01/20 entry, these are my takes … the Philip, Gavin and Kirsty story has advanced a bit with Gavin moving in after breaking up with his lucky escape girl friend and actually getting on with Kirsty and the intriguing prospect of nasty Gavin maybe making a move on now free Emma and, as a result, desparately looking for work Ed still looking for work. Rewilding and David and Ruth wedding venue plans have gone quiet, at least for the time being – thankfully. Xander has now been named incorporating (imo) Kate’s new age nonsense. The B in Ambridge story has got sillier, but at least the viscousness between Lillian and Lynda upping the anti, with poor little Mungo being the latest to get unwittingly involved. Jim learning about his recently dead abuser being now exposed is a fitting climax to this storyline, following attending the funeral and meeting a fellow victim. My champagne moment goes to Jim thanking Shula for her wise and sensitive counsel helping him come to terms with the demons of his past. Not sure what to think about Kate and Jakob – although the thought of this chalk and cheese couple becoming closer following Kate’s pregnancy that wasn’t disappointment I find rather intriguing. Talking of disappointment, I had rather hoped the story of ex-drug dealer Freddie not dealing to his friend Johnny who he was looking out for, and Lynda urged on by Tracey getting the wrong end of the stick, when Johnny was merely taking pills to slow down losing his hair, was a bit of an anti-climax. Who knows what will be the talking points in the next six weeks? One thing to be sure, there is no shortage of possibilities. How about Neil turning the tables on Hannah, Ed and Emma getting back together, Helen and Lee tying the knot, Tracey not being disappointed in love, the B becoming the Bull again, Oliver being given some nice boy award and Justin learning money isn’t everything – just saying!
There were lots of loose ends to tie up and story lines still to run their course from 2019 and we are as always at the mercy of the scriptwriters to find out which ones they will focus on and hope when something does get interesting it don’t go anti-climaxical, as too often does happen. But to be fair, there is generally enough going on to keep interest levels high, and we remain fans anyway. For me, the most intriguing story line involves the trio: Kirsty (kind hearted but sometimes way off beam), Philip (affable yet not what he seems) and Gavin (his obnoxious son), although it is difficult to see anything other than a painful outcome. My most tiresome story line involves the rewilding trio (Phoebe, Rex and Pip). I was tempted to include David and Ruth and their wedding venture until learning their potential next customer is shady Vince’s daughter. Nearly as tiresome, if it wasn’t for the good fun aspect, is the proposed re-naming of “the Bull” to the “B at Ambridge” (whatever that means) with Jolene and (let’s modernise) Lillian up against the resistance in Kenton and (I’m signing her petition) Lynda. Jim Lloyd continues to shine especially now he is attempting closure by attending the funeral of the one who abused him as a child, forming yet another interesting trio with Alistair and Jazzer. Champagne moment has to go to Kate for persuading Oliver to hire her services for a team building day, and uniting a disunited team, getting them to direct their evident negative energy onto her. And of course we await developments on a number of other story lines still to run their full course: Elizabeth, Freddy and Lily; Eddy, Ed and William and of course (horrible) Hannah, (down to earth) Neil and (its all business) Justin (funny the number of trios) and no doubt plenty in store with the Brian Aldridge and Tony Archer clans and many others besides, including wannabe vicar Shula’s ideas to do mission to Ambridge!