“What?” she asked absent-mindedly as she leafed through her mail.
I kept my eyes averted from hers (I’m an awful corpser!). “I’ve got involved with something that’s probably quite unhealthy,” I said falteringly.
I now had her full attention. “What do you mean?” she asked. I could sense tension, glimpse a growing apprehension behind her eyes.
“Since starting work down in the cellar ... I’ve become addicted to The Archers” I ‘fessed up.
I then received a friendly clip round the ear!
The Archers (in case you didn’t know) is a long running UK radio soap (the longest running soap-opera in the world I believe!) about a farming community who live in an imaginary English village called Ambridge. It’s not really known for particularly sensationalist storylines. Like all soaps it does occasionally try to hook in new listeners and possibly excite its older ones with the odd minor crime or sexual indiscretion, but mostly the show just plods along with storylines about agricultural quotas, new milking equipment, proposed bypasses that threaten to destroy village life as we know it (or hear it at least), and perhaps the odd storyline designed to really get the pulse racing e.g. the stress of having a new kitchen installed. Phew! Spicey stuff, huh? The thing that probably makes The Archers slightly different to the TV soaps is the demographic of its audience; it is a soap about mostly middle-class characters that is most probably appreciated by largely middle-class listeners.
I was only joking about becoming ‘hooked’ - although I do admit to having listened on a daily basis for several weeks now whilst repointing my cellar walls. However, I’ve been listening in from time to time ever since I was a small boy and at least bear no outward signs of damage! The characters have remained vaguely familiar to me over the years by making an occasional excursion into Ambridge country from time to time - although I admit to having massive gaps in my knowledge. For instance, whatever happened to Sid Perks? ... where has Brenda Tucker gone? etc. At the moment there’s an illicit romance going on between Roy Tucker (married to Hayley) and the recently-widowed Lizzie Pargeter - the seeds of their passion were sown whilst doing some research under canvas at a recent music festival - this is about as hot and sticky as it ever gets for a resident of Ambridge. Radio 4 listeners must be glued to their radios in open-mouthed awe at the sheer sauciness of this storyline. I recall with some trepidation a few months, about a decade back, when Judith and I came near to full-on Archers’ addiction. This was at a time when agricultural businessman Brian Aldridge (married to Jennifer) started looking at Gaelic-Minx Siobhan’s portfolio of assets a little too closely. I seem to recall he was setting up a business in Hungary and Siobhan, a linguist, was acting as a translator for him. I think she taught him a few things he didn’t previously know, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?
Anyway, Judith was horrified that I’d been listening to The Archers and I am now thoroughly sworn off again! There’s no problem, I really can handle it ... but, well ... if only I could find out how Hayley’s going to learn about Roy and Lizzie’s peccadillo ... will Jennifer manage to convince Brian to let her have the hideously outdated shell-motif tiles removed from their guest bathroom, especially after all the recent upheaval and expense of their newly installed designer kitchen ... is Peggy Wooley suffering from loneliness or is she actually going quite, quite, doolali ... is Home Farm, long-inhabited by generations of Archers, about to be destroyed by the newly proposed road?