Wendy Cope: why I’m boycotting The Archers «

    Wendy Cope: why I’m boycotting The Archers

    My father disapproved of The Archers – I’m not sure why. We never listened to it at home, but I went to boarding school when I was seven and had the programme inflicted on me against my will. This is what happened: Miss Worrall, the matron, used to gather us in her room and read to us before we went to bed. She was in the middle of a book called The Little Grey Men when someone suggested we might like to listen to The Archers instead. There was a vote. I voted for the book, but the radio programme won. Thereafter we sat down every evening and listened to the everyday story of country folk. Quite soon I got interested and looked forward to the next episode. My most vivid memory is of the vet announcing “I’m afraid [heavy pause] it's foot and mouth disease.” This news was so appalling that the programme closed with doomladen chords instead of the usual signature tune. “What's foot and mouth disease?” we all wanted to know. “Can people catch it?” Reassured that they couldn’t, I felt the music had been a bit over the top. In the school holidays, I didn’t miss The Archers at all. It was easy to pick up the story next term because nothing much happened. That's one of the great things about it. In 1999, when I was a regular listener, I spent five weeks in Colorado. When I came back, Tom Archer's court case was still going on and everything was much the same. Admittedly, we did miss the great drama in 1959 when Grace Archer was burnt to death in an attempt to distract attention from the launching of ITV. That occurred in the school holidays. The Cope family was in front of the television, fascinated by the advertisements. In adult life, I’ve had phases when I listened to The Archers every day and others when I couldn’t be bothered. There's a poem in my new book about the programme which begins: “I like The Archers only when it's got/ Adulterous behaviour in the plot.” Sid and Jolene, Brian and Siobhan, Emma and Ed, Ruth and Sam – all of them had me switching on regularly at 7pm. Come to think of it, it doesn’t necessarily have to be adultery; an unsuitable love affair will do. I remember being riveted by the story of Elizabeth Archer and Cameron Fraser. They were last heard together in a café after Elizabeth discovered she was pregnant. Cameron went to the gents and never came back. He had climbed out of a window and driven away. Once it was clear that Cameron was a thoroughly bad lot, he was banished from the script, just like the man who beat up Shula and Debbie, and Debbie's errant husband. This annoys me. I think it would be interesting to allow bad characters to stick around for a bit. At least we’ve still got Matt Crawford to dilute the blandness.

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