Magazine article The Spectator

Everyday Musings

Magazine article The Spectator

Everyday Musings

Article excerpt

To listen regularly to The Archers on Radio Four is to inhabit a separate world which non-listeners sometimes find quite baffling. People who miss episodes still find themselves wondering what the cast is doing, and there was a time when you could return after an absence and happily pick up all the pieces, though not any more. We speak almost a secret language and find we are amused at the expressions of incomprehension of those not similarly engaged.

At a delightful lunch outside in the garden, it was Archers buff Venetia who wondered out loud what would happen to Sid and Kathy now that his affair with Jolene had been revealed by Eddie Grundy. It was she who, having missed a few episodes, once asked me at a similar gathering if `Richard was shagging Shula?'. As an authority on Ambridge I was able to inform her that he was indeed. Unlike those listeners who complained to the BBC after Eddie had told Kathy that Sid was `shagging Jolene Rodgers', I didn't fmd it offensive, as it seems to me to be a word in wide currency and a rather effective colloquialism, though it jarred coming from Eddie.

As we were discussing these vital matters I could see Tom, the vicar, casting a puzzled glance in our direction. He was interested in what we were saying, but it was clear he couldn't place the people to whom we referred. Which Sid, among his flock, was having the affair? Nor could he think of anyone called Jolene living in the parish of Donhead St Mary and St Andrew. Clearly, she did not attend church and, in any case, people called Jolene do not live in the country. Who was Eddie Grundy and which council estate had he and his family moved to? Meadow Rise wasn't local. Things were obviously hotting up in the parish. Not only were Sid and Jolene at it, but Ruth had breast cancer. Why had he not heard about it so he could make a pastoral visit? Elizabeth was quarrelling with her brother David over their inheritance. Now this had a familiar ring to it, though the Elizabeths who attended his services seemed such nice people. I could sense all this forming in his mind and at last, unable to tolerate the suspense, he finally enquired. The Archers, of course, we said, the Radio Four soap opera. All became clear and he rolled his eyes, appropriately heavenwards, and now felt able to relax about such an errant congregation. His villages weren't, after all, pulsating with conflict and passion. …

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