radio review

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So what now for Shula? The story so far, for those who don't follow the Archers: widowed, a single mother, Shula believed she had found happiness once more with Simon Pemberton. Simon's father, Guy, recently married to Shula's best friend Caroline, died last month of a heart attack precipitated by stress arising from his knowledge that Simon was seeing another woman; Caroline told Shula, who confronted Simon, who in the ensuing argument slapped her. That was a week ago; since then, he has been pursuing her constantly, begging for a chance to explain himself, but she will have none of it.

There are three obvious options open to the writers. First, Simon finally gets the message and leaves. This would be boring, but that has never stopped writers of the Archers before. Second, Shula takes him back, he reforms his selfish ways and becomes a loving and gentle husband and father. This is unlikely, since it would involve admitting that hitting Shula was an emotionally complex action, not an expression of pure evil. To the writers, Shula is impeccable, the pain she has suffered in recent years having wiped out the stains of her indiscreet youth. It's surely no coincidence that she conceived by IVF, the nearest the writers could come to an immaculate conception; and the tone in which the incident has been discussed so far suggests that in raising his hand to Shula, Simon's real sin was not brutality but sacrilege. So scratch that one.

The third option is that she takes Simon back, but his appearance of reform is an illusion, and he quickly becomes Ambridge's principal womaniser and domestic monster, a role Brian Aldridge is now too creaky to fill. Since this would provide plenty of plot, it seems quite possible; and there's some satisfaction in the thought that it would involve Shula in continual suffering for some years to come.

But there are two more options I would like to propose. The first is that Shula's apparent coldness towards Simon is hiding the excitement that the blow aroused in her. She will admit this first to herself, then to him; and the Archers will be the first soap opera to really tackle the issue of violent sadomasochistic sex in a mature way. Perhaps Jack and Peggy Woolley could announce that their marriage is based on ritual humiliation; the village shop might start selling handcuffs and intimate leatherwear.

The final possibility is more exciting than that, even; but it will have to wait until next Monday.