Seven o’clock is the absolute worst time to arrive home. I’ve just missed the half-hour comedy slot on Radio 4; to add insult to injury, the following programme is the everyday story of farming folk, patronising yokel accents, ham-fistedly obvious attempts at shoehorning in every conceivable demographic group, and godawful acting that is The Archers. It’s a soap opera that metastasised out of postwar farming propaganda, and now it’s unstoppable. Getting rid of it would probably raise a greater outcry than Disestablishment or republican revolution. It would probably even get people out to vote in numbers that parliamentary elections could never attain.
The most irritating thing about The Archers is the way the continuity announcers try to sneak it up on you. ‘Blah, blah, blah, blah, and now, The Archers!’ The moment I hear the opening bar of the theme tune, I leap across the room to switch stations. I’ll probably trip and kill myself doing it one day. Paradoxically, I think the theme tune’s very good: it’s lively and charming. It’s just a pity that it’s the harbinger of something ghastly.
Actually, come to think of it, Sunday mornings are even worse. The entertaining Broadcasting House is bookended by the turgidity of Sunday Worship (‘O Lord, you are so big’) on one side and the toast-throwing distemper induced by an hour and a quarter of Archers on the other.
Fortunately, digital radio has brought a few alternative speech stations to fill the dead time. I’m getting to like the BBC World Service: it’s refreshing to hear news with a broader outlook, instead of ‘Amy Winehouse spilt wine down her dress … oh, and three hundred people died in a train crash somewhere poor.’