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Charlotte Higgins on The Archers: an open relationship in Ambridge at last!
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Charlotte Higgins on The Archers: an open relationship in Ambridge at last!

I have been reading a lot of Trollope recently, and am especially struck by his characters, who are, by and large, decent, well-intentioned people – but who, like actual real living humans, blunder their way through life, making poor decisions and hurting each other. So it is with Fallon and Harrison, once Ambridge’s happiest couple, now – perhaps – teetering on the brink. The suppressed fault lines in their almost too-perfect relationship were always big: is there a God? Should we have babies? Now these fault lines have been exposed by “the events” – the great car crash on the bridge over the Am, after which Fallon had a miscarriage. For Harrison, that awoke his dormant but deep desire for a baby; Fallon remained as clear as ever that she never wants a child. Harrison turned to the church for succour; Fallon to a night out clubbing. I am firmly team Fallon, but it’s hard not to feel for Harrison, who has been in mourning for the possibility of a different kind of life.

Talking of Victorian novelists, I have some hope of a Wilkie Collins-style plot in the offing. Out of the blue, Alice has pleaded not guilty to the dangerous driving charges at the magistrate’s court, because something “deep inside her” told her she couldn’t have caused the above-mentioned car crash. She’s right, of course: George Grundy was at the wheel of her car at the moment of the collision, while she was comatose in the passenger seat. In the confusion following the accident, he moved her across to the driver’s side to incriminate her and protect himself. Everyone thinks she’s mad, of course, except for Chris, her ex-husband, who still loves her – despite her alcoholism and despite their divorce. It would be delicious if he turned amateur sleuth and brought to light the nefarious deeds of his own nephew.

This month has seen the introduction of two relatively outre notions to the village: open relationships and couples counselling, courtesy of Paul the vet nurse and his silent boyfriend, Dull Etienne. A friend once averred that The Archers acted as a form of inoculation of the middle classes against social change: if gay marriage cropped up in Ambridge, for example (2006, Adam and Ian), it must be finally safe in the shires.

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The only election worth our consideration in Ambridge has been the intra-Grundy family plebiscite on whether to keep their ancient pony, Bartleby, or sell him to a benign lady who runs a home for decrepit equines. It was, someone pointed out, a 100% turnout, because this was an issue that people actually cared about. At this point in my listening “journey” I beat my head quietly against the kitchen table in despair.

Source: theguardian.com