TThe scene: a guest bedroom in Amy Franks’ apartment in Nottingham. At first, we do not recognize who is motionless under the duvet. The air is charged with the stench of stale alcohol. Trash lurks around the bed, à la Tracey Emin: empty bottles of local vodka, take-out boxes encrusted with half-eaten food, jeans and underwear tangled in a filthy heap. Then, with a sigh, the figure turns and we see that it is Alice Carter, an alcoholic from Ambridge – asleep or, more accurately, passed out.
Cut to a montage of images as they cross her mind in a dizzying progression: In a crazy vignette, Shula Hebden Lloyd screams as she is thrown from her pony. A moment later, Neil Carter’s heavy form walks over to her lying body and cradles her sadly. Then Shula is back from the hospital with her arm in a sling; Neil arrives, carrying a plate of lasagna, but irritated, she sends him away. Third hallucination: Shula receives another visitor, this time her recent ex-husband, Alistair Lloyd, to whom she confides to be in love with her former rescuer, the first pigman of Ambridge, Neil Carter himself.
Yes, the only explanation I can offer for Shula’s frankly incredible confession is that it will be revealed next month that this is a foul twist of one of Alice’s drunken fever dreams. The same, I’m afraid, goes for the bizarre idea that the somewhat boring Roy Tucker has embarked on an exciting career of late-night hookups on Tinder.
The celebrity cameo at the village party this year – Ambridge traditionally inviting someone from the beyond to open the proceedings – came from Jackie Weaver, the star of this real-life drama, the Handforth Parish Council Zoom Meeting, which went viral in February. The interesting thing about this parish council meeting was that it passed the archers – its dialogue was more punchy, its story arc more exciting, its characterization sharper. Bringing Weaver herself to the Archers – where she discharged as confidently as one might expect – only made that impression stronger.
Friendly tip: Ambridge locals should probably consider going beyond boredom in Gray Gables for their urgent sexy / reconnect night.
The Aldridge family continues their slow and painful ending. Adam leaves Home Farm for a new job at the end of the world, mysterious North Borsetshire; Ruairi, alienated by Alice, left for Ireland to reconnect with his biological mother’s family. “Remember you will always be part of this family,” Jennifer told him at the station. Not so much a promise, it is thought, as a curse.