Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Archers

People sometimes ask me whether my life is like The Archers – well, living in a village in the depths of the English countryside midway between a couple of market towns, I suppose there are superficial parallels, but I usually put them right straight away. For one thing, I can’t imagine people round here would have very much time for that ludicrous storyline about Helen wanting to have a baby via sperm donation. And I particularly don’t understand why there aren't any dogs on The Archers. At least none that you ever hear. Most farmers I know round here have at least three dogs and most of them are far from silent, but on the radio, doorbells ring and visitors enter the house unmolested, folk go on holiday without having to make complicated arrangements with the kennels, postmen bring letters without being in fear for their lives, bin day comes and goes with some trusty mutt tipping everything up and rooting through to see if there’s anything worth eating… Hmmm, I think our next dog might have to be a radio dog...

And apart from anything else, I can see that I would be the obvious candidate for the insufferable Lynda Snell, the nosy incomer with a poor, downtrodden husband and several fingers in every conceivable pie, which is just too upsetting to contemplate. I suppose if I really had to be one of them (and let’s face it, that’s far from likely), I possibly wouldn’t mind being Caroline. But the chances of us ever being able to afford Grey Gables or the Dower House are pretty slim to say the least. Dour House, more likely…

Not that I ever listen to it, you understand…

* * *

Of course we don’t need The Archers, because we have our very own real-life archers here. Down in the field next to Hector’s forge at the bottom of the hill in Little Somerford on a Sunday (if it’s not raining too much) or on a summer’s evening after work, you can see them under the boughs of the ancient oak, lining up their sights, fleet arrows buzzing swiftly through the air before piercing one of the targets with a soft thud. Well, at least Hector’s do. Alex perhaps needs a bit more practice. But he’s not doing badly...

Hector is one of our local heroes. Standing over six feet tall with flaxen hair and strong workman’s hands, he looks as though he could easily have been transported here from Saxon times in his softly-timeworn leather apron as he stands with his bow and a quiver of handmade arrows, or at his forge, puffing the bellows until the coals glow red hot. A master arrowsmith and archeological ironworker, he’s a leading authority on historic smithing techniques, his expertise is frequently sought out for TV programmes such as Time Team, and he was responsible for the magnificent ironwork gates at nearby Highgrove. As well as being incredibly skilled and talented, Hector is immensely generous with his time, too – guiding and encouraging young archers and arrowmakers locally with his unstinting patience and enthusiasm.

As you come down the hill from Malmesbury into Little Somerford’s grassy valley, the sight of soft grey puffs of smoke rising gently from the chimney of the forge at the bottom confirms that Hector’s in his forge and all’s right with the world.

* * *

Unfortunately, all was far from right with the world this week when our little village shop was targeted by robbers who threatened the shopkeeper with a knife, demanding cash. Luckily another member of staff was able to raise the alarm and the man ran off empty-handed. I’ve since heard that he was subsequently caught by the Police. It’s thankfully very rare to hear of such things in our quiet little part of the world, but it would be so sad if this incident were to make us all suspicious and untrusting of any visitor.

But perhaps it’s as well to know that bad things do sometimes happen in unexpected places and understand that things are not always as peaceful they look.


  1. Hello Brown Dog - I was missing your posts until I became a 'follower' and now I have the luxury of a notice when you write - so I won't miss any more! I was slow to catch onto the 'follower' thing!
    I used to listen to the Archers when we lived near the BF radio in Germany. Grouse gave me a link and sometimes I listen here too - wonderful fairy tale!

  2. It's always interesting to live in a small collection of neighbors. So many characters, so much trivial drama.
    Several years ago, our bucolic old neighborhood had the unpleasant, but interesting, misfortune to be targeted by a very agile cat burglar. It seems he would hit someone new every few days. One Sunday afternoon, however, he found himself cornered in the attic of our neighbor across the street - a bachelor who had taken himself off to see Lord of the Rings at the theatre for the umpteenth time. Our little town has one police dog and we all dote on him. Especially since he was the one brave enough to charge up into our neighbor's attic and bring down our nemesis, the cat burglar. It seems as though all of the neighborhood, with their dogs of course, were gathered in our garden, hoping to catch a glimpse of this monster. All were a little disappointed, however, when the police brought out a rather anemic looking little teenager. But it was an exciting couple of weeks for us all!

  3. Havent listened to the Archers since I was much younger, but used to love them! I beleive the story lines have got considerably more complex now, to keep up with the real world?
    How awful to have a hold up in the is beginning to creep in here too. Our village shop lady told me that they never keep much money in the till now as they are afraid of 'voleurs'.

  4. Hmmn, I wonder if I can work a well built flaxen haired smith into my next book? I think I feel a research trip coming on. I do love the idea of having a radio dog - no chance of Brown Dog starring in the Archers any time soon then?

  5. I used to have a boss who called me 'Carroloine' in a Brummy Jack Wooley way, which he found hilarious and I, being 23, found inexplicable.

    Have to say I don't listen regularly but I love the way you can always catch up with the plot, no matter how long you've been away.

    And, aah, a blacksmith. I am very taken with all this blacksmithery since watching Monty Don (sigh, etc) doing the traditional craft programme on Friday.