Sunday, 9 October 2011

Musing: The Archers - an Everyday Story of Literacy Attack.

Dum de dum de dum de dum . . . Every Sunday morning, my dear mum listened to “The Archers” as she busied herself in the kitchen. Even though my housekeeping is not in any way as timetabled, I often find myself listening to the Archers Omnibus, possibly as a gentle way of hanging on to long gone moments.

I’m not an addict of the Archers and the programme and the characters annoy and amuse me in less than equal measures. Yet as a writer, I love playing the “predict-the-plot” game and musing on what is being set up for future episodes.

However I’m always angered by the script-writer’s apparent anti-book scenes and sniping about readers and reading.. There’s a kind of recurring sub-text that suggests “how stupid is it for anyone to spend time reading” and often adds a bitter note to the programmes

I’d endured boring David & Ruth’s choice of boring books for their children which never seemed to move beyond moaning about having to read a boring Postman Pat book over again. “Get to the mobile library van, fools!” I’d shout, although now we’re all in Austerity Ambridge, that’s no longer a likely scene.

Besides, why do only the most self-obsessed snobs like Jenny & Linda & Jim Lloyd seem to have the reading habit? The rest fret about any hint of reading, and truly worthy characters prefer cooking and baking and growing flowers. Although Usha the good lawyer reads, she is such a token character that it hardly counts.

Reading is hard and mysterious. Someone makes up appalling rhymes that are regarded with awe. The script for any village panto is mocked until the good folk “make it their own” by changing the words to make it easier to read. Computers are machines of wonder, literacy for all. All comedic but – harrumph!

Just at the moment there are three especially annoying Book Threads.

The Village Book Club is one. I’m sure this Club has never chosen a book that people have simply enjoyed. Books mean angst over catering or unsuitable or tactless content. The most recent book of choice was Mistress of the Paddock – a title that tells all. Yes, Book Groups are a pretentious & misguided waste of time for all involved. And a good chance for some anti-book moaning.

Then there are authors and their awful presumption. At the moment, this is exemplified by two dreadful yuppies – Leonie and James – who rish into scenes now and again, loudly setting up photo-images for a book they are writing about the village. So not only are books irrelevant and silly, so is anyone who is involved with books & writing. They are likely to cause an unwelcome stir. More moaning.

Then there was today’s kick-a book example. The broadcast included middle aged but youthful Kenton moving into his boxes into beloved barmaid Jolene’s pub.

So we had the “aghast at too many books” moment followed by the “grumbling about space on the bookshelf” moment. Cheery Kenton’s okay, though. Some of the boxes weren’t books after all! They were comics and magazines after all. Ho ho! Kenton’s a regular guy after all! Grrr!

I’m now waiting for the imminent “Hey, I got me a Kindle!” scene. Can’t be long coming. Oh, Ambridge script-writers, what have you got against reading?

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