Magazine article The Spectator

An Everyday Tale of Rural Folk?

Magazine article The Spectator

An Everyday Tale of Rural Folk?

Article excerpt

Like many townies, I have a vague and romantic hankering after the rural life. Sadly, the less than bucolic surroundings of my Tower Hamlets pied-a-terre provide few opportunities to discuss crop rotation with hearty rustics or synchronise my body clock with the primal rhythms of the seasons. The dismal state of my bank balance makes it unlikely that I will be able to annex a sizeable chunk of the Cotswolds until well into the next millennium. So my place in the country, shared with millions of other country life wannabes, has been Ambridge, home to The Archers.

Ambridge seems a quiet sort of place. While the long suffering inhabitants of rural soap rival Emmerdale, inexplicably for the most part Cockneys transplanted to the Yorkshire Dales, daily confront air disasters, murder and simmering semi-incest, The Archers is reassuringly uneventful. Tragedy means the death of Jack Woolley's dog, Captain. For steamy sex, now a staple of all the other soaps, we get Lynda Snell giving husband Robert a full-body massage. Mercifully, the power of radio leaves this rather yucky sounding business entirely to the listener's imagination.

In short, the appeal of The Archers lies in its celebration of the mundane. Ambridge is a sanctuary, a homely unthreatening refuge where life is simple and uncomplicated. However, all is not as it seems. Tommy's organic sausages, the uneven performance of the village eleven and Susan Carter's consistent dreariness are mere window dressing. The underlying reality of The Archers is altogether more dark and sinister.

At first, I thought I must be imagining it. Occasionally an Ambridge stalwart would voice an opinion that didn't quite chime with their character. Hmm, that doesn't sound quite right, I would muse, before being swept back into the unfolding drama by some intriguing new twist of a bovine tuberculosis plot line.

But as the years passed I found it more and more difficult to ignore these strange deviations from form. Recently, for example, Jill Archer launched into a shrill tirade against private education, railing against Shula's decision to send Daniel to a prep school. This just didn't seem to fit with Jill's personality and background. Admittedly, Jill has done some fairly outlandish things in the past. Giving the twins futuristic sci-fi names like Kenton and Shula, more appropriate for Blake's Seven galactic bandits, for one. All the same, I did wonder. Mrs Archer, a mother to Ambridge and the nation, has an iconic status. Like members of the royal family, I felt sure that protocol should prevent her from speaking out on political matters. Yet here she was, championing state education with a vehemence not heard since the Red reign of the Inner London Education Authority. What could be happening?

Concerned, I reviewed similarly jarring episodes from the last year. With horrible clarity a pattern quickly emerged, one that pointed to a sinister hidden agenda on The Archers. I tried to deny it - but the evidence was overwhelming. Under its earthy patina of peculiar accents and milk quotas, The Archers was concealing a relentless propaganda campaign for alternative, and distinctly urban and anti-traditional, lifestyles and attitudes. Rather than the reliable friend of my fond, complacent belief, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that The Archers is instead a vehicle for subversive leftist dogma. Simply consider the facts:

Kate Aldridge, perhaps the most irritating and selfish adolescent on the radio since the entire cast of the mercifully shortlived Citizens, is not only tolerated, her brattishness and silly ideas about tepee birthing and dole-scrounging motorway protesters are actually validated by apparent stalwarts of Middle England such as Mrs Antrobus. …

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