Donald MacInnes: Peggy Woolley has my admiration after sticking with The Archers for so long


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The Independent Online

I must congratulate veteran Archers star June Spencer, who has been awarded a lifetime achievement statuette at the BBC Audio Drama Awards.

Never having listened to The Archers, all I can do is report (hopefully accurately) that the 94-year-old actress plays Peggy Woolley and has been part of the Radio 4 soap since it was first launched back in 1951, when dinosaurs bestrode the Earth.

Peggy received her accolade from BBC director general Tony Hall at a ceremony in Broadcasting House in London last Sunday.

The one down-side was the fact that the ceremony was hosted by Lenny Henry, a comedian who was funny six or maybe seven times in the eighties and who now advertises budget motorway hotels.

Whose idea was that? Lenny Henry? Seriously? Surely June deserved better. Surely her years of service to the dung-themed radio show deserved a host she admired; if not that, then one she had actually heard of. Off the top of my head, I would suggest Paul Hollywood. The silver-maned flour arranger is massive with the grey pound, and the twinkley-eyed charmer not only looks the part but also knows his way around a dropped scone – the importance of which to ladies of an advanced age cannot really be overstated. Then there is Aled Jones. Or your man Titchmarsh? Or Giles Brandreth? Surely any one of these would have been better than Lenny Henry?

However, in spite of the disappointing choice of master of ceremonies, I'm sure Ms Spencer had a wonderful day and good luck to her for the next 50 years. Personally, I couldn't stick with the same job for 63 years. I get bored halfway through buttering toast, so I can't imagine myself going to the same place of work for all those decades.

Last year, the Centre for Health and Sciences published a table showing the average length of time people in various countries spend in their job. Top of the list was Greece, with the typical worker spending a terrifying 13 years in the same job. What this says about the psyche of Greek people in unclear. The most transient workers in the industrialised world are apparently found in the United States, with the average American worker staying in the same job for just four years. Britain comes second bottom of the table, with its workers only changing jobs every 8.25 years.

Personally, although doing the same job for nigh-on a decade scares me, it's the repetition involved in getting to work which really makes me shudder. What we do (especially in this line of work) changes every day, so the job is never quite the same. What doesn't change, though, is the daily commute. Thank heaven for Honda, then, which made my scooter, meaning I needn't use London's rage-inducing public transport. I'll bet Peggy Woolley would have packed in The Archers in about 1954 if she had to get to work on the Tube.

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