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Radio: The Archers

November 24, 2009

Radio 4 Blog Editor Chappy Steve Bowbrick has been at The Archers headquarters this week, nosing around the studio at the BBC’s Mailbox in Birmingham. He went with his digital camera. Some of his pictures are spookily engaging.

I say spookily because I’m normally averse to seeing too much behind the scenes of a radio drama. I don’t want too many mental images shattered by taking a peek at the real identity of Ambridge. Especially right at this moment in time.

There’s a story line at the moment which is making me feel incredibly sad. Jack Woolley is – I think – suffering from Alzheimers. His illness is being played out with a ongoing degeneration of his formerly stable mind, not unlike the slow dripping of a tap. At times it was amusing. Now as Jack’s illness edges him ever closer to a nursing home – The Laurels – each incident makes it a more attractive option for his carers. Us listeners is find it increasingly more difficult to listen to.

As a son with aging parents, it is – let me be honest – my worst nightmare. My parents are fit and healthy. They have all of there marbles and frequently make use of them, scaring me in the process. If I could be half as active as them at their age I’d feel quite pleased. As the years roll on and I admire their energy so the thought of Jack’s illness makes me worry.

I’ve no idea how I would cope in that situation, seeing someone I know in one way behave in a completely different way in front of me. And yet, as scary a thought as that is I check in with the Archers every single night at the moment.

That’s the key to the Archers you see. I can check in with an entirely different (albeit fictitious) community. It’s escape. It’s entertainment. It’s thought provoking. And when its good it stays with me all day long.

And seeing pictures from behind the scenes doesn’t really change that. Sure Ruth Archer does look a bit different from how I picture her and David Archer might want to think about shaving that silly beard off, but Ambridge still exists in my mind. So much so I know I’ll find things a little difficult when Jack faces his ultimate end.

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