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Arts

Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: a prizewinning lamb tops a dazzlingly dull year

Ian and Adam are hiring a womb, Ed Grundy is hunting online for top lamb sperm – and editor Huw Kennair-Jones is leaving Ambridge just as I’ve learned how to spell his name

“You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille,
With 400 children and a crop in the field.”

– Kenny Rogers

After barely a year of country life, the editor of The Archers, Huw Kennair-Jones, whose name I have only just learned to spell with any confidence, is leaving us for the bright lights. As his boss said over Pringles and prosecco: “He’s done a great job. It’s been an eventful year in Ambridge.” He may have done a great job, but it has been a dazzlingly dull year and, after the fireworks display of the previous editor, that may well have been the idea. Silence like a poultice came to heal the blows of sound. Jones the Poultice.

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Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: is Grey Gables Ambridge's answer to The Shining?

Caroline’s ashes are unlikely to make Grey Gables feel any less haunted. Maybe a new coat of paint will do the trick? Meanwhile, Adam is wondering if he’s ready to add to the village’s extraordinary array of tots

“Take me when I’m gorn /
To Forest Lawn.”

– John Denver

Grey Gables always reminds me of the hotel in The Shining. Endless echoing corridors and unoccupied conference suites. Run by a skeleton staff for invisible guests. It is almost certainly haunted. The bones of previous residents moulder in the spacious grounds. Captain, Jack Woolley’s unattractive bull terrier, is here with his own headstone and the ashes of Caroline, the former owner, nourish a cherry tree. “No better place for her final rest” as her sorrowing widower put it this week and, indeed, there is a sense of mausoleum about the place. Grey Gables is the nearest thing to a white elephant you will find outside Whipsnade Zoo.

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Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: Lilian is 70 – break out the lingerie!

Lilian wears her years as lightly as French silk, while elsewhere in Ambridge former sausage tsar Tom gets on intimate terms with fermented foods

Oh, baby, what I couldn’t do
With plenty of money and you!
– Gold Diggers of 1937

Lilian, a good sport slightly based on the Duchess of Cornwall, has just turned 70 but you wouldn’t think it. She wears her years as lightly as the French silk lingerie that Justin, a captain of industry, showers on her. Intermittently, of course, she vanishes to London for what her brother-in-law Brian unkindly calls her monkey glands. But that’s just Brian showing his age. Lilian never shows hers. We were all startled to hear her climb out of her glamorous new bath on her 70th birthday wearing only Justin’s ruby pendant. The pictures on radio are just wonderful.

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Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: trouble is a cat called Hilda Ogden

Ambridge, whose residents can browbeat a bull, are at a loss with a feline newcomer. But then she is the cat from hell

A disconcerting diva has made a dramatic entrance in Ambridge, on her very own blood-red carpet. Peggy, The Archers matriarch, returned from a routine hairdo at Fabrice of Felpersham with a cat called Hilda Ogden. Hilda has replaced (and rather briskly if I may say so) the late, lamented Bill, who was run over by Brian last week.

I should mention in Brian’s defence that Bill was grossly obese and had it coming. As opposed to heard it coming. Hilda Ogden, who may have psychic powers, seemed to sense Brian’s guilt, and laid his hand open from wrist to fingertip.

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