A few thoughts on The Archers Omnibus Tweetalong.
Jolene on the M27
A woman called Jolene was getting a call about a bloke called Sid, who’d just had a heart attack in New Zealand. And then there was a man and a woman talking for quite a long time about their dairy herd. And then this Sid, who was apparently Jolene’s husband, was no longer Jolene’s husband because he was dead and there was wailing involving both Jolene and her daughter, who was called Fallon.
It was the summer of 2010 and I was driving home from a long working trip up north. My huge supply of podcasts had run out and the in-car entertainment was down to Radio 4 or BBC 5 Live blathering on interminably about the World Cup. I scanned to Radio 4.
So with an hour and a half’s driving still to go, I not only discovered The Archers but had, by sheer coincidence, landed right on top of one of those tumultuous happenings which happen only rarely in The Archers but define the show’s story arcs for aeons to come. That’s it. Jolene Perks appeared to me on the M27 and life was never quite the same again. And thanks to the omnibus podcast, a flash drive and many more very long car journeys, I was hooked.
Coming Out of the Shadows
It’s not that I particularly need to be part of a peer group or share my hobbies with others, but this felt a bit different. Not one single person I knew even in passing appeared to have ever tuned in. I seemed to be completely the wrong demographic. I imagined The Archers being followed by farmers getting all hot and bothered by the only broadcast drama with it’s own agricultural advisor. I imagined pink-cord wearing Telegraph readers tuning in with a cup of Earl Grey, and tweed skirted ladies bustling home from the village coffee morning to catch the latest gossip from Ambridge. I was alone. My relationship with The Archers was at first secretive and self-conscious. An almost shameful fetish carried out in the privacy of my car, like dogging without the bodily fluids or nettles.
But then came Twitter. And my discovery of a hashtag that has changed my Sunday morning routine forever. I fire up the laptop, give my non-Archers followers a five minute warning (“Going to talk utter bollocks for the next 70 minutes so please block. Won’t be offended”) and set up a browser tab to show nothing but tweets marked #TheArchers. The hideous accordion version of Barwick Green recorded especially for the omnibus by The Yetties and sounding every bit the aural equivalent of fingernails down a blackboard is the not too heavy price to be paid for an hour of ten minutes of daftness shared with freaks, crazies, eccentrics, odd bods and of course the inhabitants of Ambridge.
Meet the Archers Tweetalongers
So who are these strange folk, the Archers Tweetalongers? If the profiles I occasionally peruse are anything to go by, we are definitely not the Telegraph reading, coffee morning attending stereotypes of my fetid imagination. None are, to my knowledge, farmers.
We spend our Sunday mornings offering blow by blow analyses of the comings and goings within a fictional village. Most of us appear to be reasonably minded professional types who can spell. We often use words that are quite long. We seem, for the most part and as far as one can tell, to do responsible stuff in the real world. We’d never normally say boo to a goose in either real life or the twittersphere. But come 10am on a Sunday, the gloves come off. Suddenly The Archers omnibus makes acceptable what would normally be the lowest denominator of the troll. Tweets are famously limited to 140 characters but statements such as ‘twat’ ‘bell end’ ‘total bitch’ or ‘bastard’ often don’t trouble the word limit. The level of commentary does of course improve and includes much that is as witty and urbane as the Horobins and Grundys are not.
But one indisputable Tweetalong theme is abuse. No resident of Ambridge is safe from the torrent of vicious insult unleashed by every Tweetalonger, revealing if nothing else a deep vein of unresolved anger bubbling deep and hot within the British middle-class and brought to cataclysmic eruption every time Pip opens her gob, or Tom mentions the organic ready meals so often wished by so many to be inserted hard and as far as possible up his anus.
And let’s hold that thought for now, for there’s Part 2 to, er, come. ‘Sex and The Archers fan’. Can’t wait, can you?