Susie Rushton: Ambridge is no place for drama

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

The extra days off over Christmas and New Year gave me plenty of time to keep up with the television news. It was a schedule jam-packed with biblically unpleasant events. A horrible murder, as yet unsolved. Deaths by drowning, hot-air balloon disaster, and suicide bombing. Rioting and 30ft floods. Kim Jong-il threatening to take "annihilatory action" against ROTW if the fancy took him. I'm sure pestilence and plague happened somewhere on the planet, too, though it didn't make it on to BBC News 24 while I was watching.

And at the same time, listeners of Britain's gentlest soap opera had been forewarned that the 60th anniversary edition of The Archers, broadcast on Sunday evening, would contain a crisis so dramatic that its after-effects would be "felt for the next 10 years" (a figure repeated by series editor Vanessa Whitburn in increasingly hyperbolic interviews).

Naturally, one thinks of the day a 747 crashed into Emmerdale, Coronation Street's recent train disaster, and, most upsetting, the morning Pam Ewing woke up to find an entire series of Dallas had All Been A Dream and her dead husband was in fact alive, and lathering his hairy chest in the shower.

Would Shula awake to discover the last 15 years were but a slightly uneventful nightmare, and even Walter Gabriel was still walking around Ambridge? Online speculation was even wider of the mark: a shootout ending the internecine feud between Ed and William Grundy; the construction of an airport right in the middle of the village; Kenton joins a jihadist organisation ...

As we now know, in the end the shocking event was a woman giving birth after a near-miss with pre-eclampsia, and a man falling off a roof to his death. Even loyal listeners have derided the storyline as predictable and an anti-climax. But actually, in the gentle, real-time world of The Archers, a tragic turn of events involving a central character who has been in the soap for 25 years is no damp squib, creating a rich seam of drama that the series writers will be able to mine for some time. The Archers is about characters, not catastrophic events of the scale that we see on the news.

Meanwhile, after the series editor, Vanessa Whitburn, appeared to give away the plot yesterday in a Today programme interview in which she said the episode contained "a birth and a death and that's quite iconic, I think", BBC execs might want to consider how they managed so spectacularly to bungle the PR.







Selfishness and romance: can they really go together?



Do you always put your partner first? Maybe you shouldn't. The New York Times reports that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the happiest marriages are those where each partner behaves with a certain degree of selfishness. This is not a green light for rampant affairs, nor demands that smoked-salmon bagels be brought to you in bed each morning.

According to the psychologist Dr Arthur Aron, the most successful partnerships are those that "sustain the individual". He studied how people use their partners to expand their own horizons by accumulating knowledge and experiences. Those with the greatest degree of "self-expansion" were more committed and more satisfied in their cosy twosomes, the research showed. Accordingly, anybody looking for a lasting co-dependent shouldn't be asking a prospective date, "Fancy a drink?" but rather, "Fancy helping me improve my life?"

As unpleasant as it may seem, there is probably some truth in Dr Aron's "Me Marriage" thesis; who hasn't been in love and felt that swooning "seeing things for the first time" sensation thanks to a partner's fresh perspective? But to acknowledge the role of the ego so explicitly, even to prize it and put it at the centre of a relationship, seems rather unromantic, and not without its own risks. As a commenter named SW writes: "I've been married over 30 years and at this point, the only 'self-expansion' we mutually experience is our waistlines."







Some greetings only work in person



The tree is off with the binmen tomorrow. The last of the seasonal food and drink is dispensed with (the birds aren't fussy about eating stale pannetone). But when is it too late to wish friends and neighbours Happy New Year? Christmas greetings have a simple enough sell-by date. But should we keep on with the cheery Happy 2011s all the way through January? Or is it already time to set aside the pleasantries and get down to business?

I think the social codes have been altered very slightly by technology. There is one rule for digital salutations and another for real life. I received and sent a clutch of Hpy New Yrs via text on 1 January, and no later. But I'll say it to people's faces throughout January. Not many people bother any more with the traditional manner of bringing in the new year just after midnight – by smearing their faces with coal dust and passing the smudged cheeks around for kisses. Yet there is something pleasant about the personally delivered greeting.

In the meantime, don't expect the recipient of an emailed new year greeting to feel touched – it's about as personal as the ubiquitous "Hope you are well" that blights e-communication.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child