It’s been a long 5 months in Ambridge. Custard sales have plummeted and there has been a trifling (sorry) referendum in the meantime. But this Sunday, marks the beginning of the trial of the century.
*** If you don’t listen to The Archers, don’t feel obliged to read on. I feel the need to let it out but my husband hasn’t paid attention since Caroline and Oliver took 9 months to buy Grey Gables. ***
It’s always been difficult to convert people to The Archers because, in reality, it’s not very good. Obviously I don’t believe that for a minute, but it’s always been so present and embedded. It’s like trying to persuade someone that your family and your friends are awesome – they’re not, but you’re really fond of them and enjoy muddling along together. For years, it has been there in the background, when lying in bed on Sunday morning, driving home from work, bathing babies, feeding children, folding washing. There’s the occasional excitement: affairs, deaths, illnesses and something about herbal lays, but that’s about it. Weeks can go by without hearing from them but you catch up.
The everyday story of country folk blends into your everyday so that you can no longer tell the difference. (I used to get terribly confused when they went to the Royal Show).
I think that’s why the Helen and Rob story has been so powerful – it’s not a blockbuster, high octane drama, but it drips intimately into your life when you’re not looking. I think of people in The Archers rather like some of the Mums on the playground – I see them for 10 minutes a day and get a tiny glimpse into their lives.
The story of Rob’s coercive control has been ramping up, slowly and unnoticed for years. Now I like to point out on a regular basis that I’ve never liked him (here’s me in 2014)
I clearly sensed he was a wrong-un from the start but what’s great about this storyline, is that actually no one, including me, really liked Helen either. She was whiny, spoilt, highly strung and obsessed with cheese. However in real life, bad things do happen to irritating people and it’s been horrific to hear an abusive relationship played out, inch by inch, with each jigsaw piece going unnoticed by everyone around. From the comments about her hair, her clothes, stopping her driving, convincing her she was unstable to rape and violence. For me, the night he threw the dinner she was preparing in the bin and went out to buy steak (far more appropriate) was the clincher. Each tiny act was insignificant in itself and easily brushed away. And it’s far more impactful than any Hollywood blockbuster (and I’VE seen Sleeping With The Enemy).
That’s why the Helen Titchener Escape Fund , for the charity Refuge, currently stands at £134,000. Because we all know a Helen, or suspect that we do. There are lots of women who have had to stop listening, because it brings back too many bad memories and more who have slowly become aware that their relationship maybe isn’t all that normal after all, and maybe they do deserve better.
But drama it is, and all this isn’t getting the custard cleared up. Justice must be done, for all our sakes. There has been much criticism of the EastEnders like storyline developments of late. The Archers has always prided itself on its accuracy (as the Agricultural story editor will testify) but some things have been played fast and loose for the sake of a good plot.
So as the trial looms – these are my observations and predictions. I would welcome any expert answers since I have absolutely no knowledge of family law, criminal law, social services or anything else for that matter.
Anna – surely she can’t be such a bad barrister. For someone supposedly an expert in domestic violence, she has been fairly inept at handling Helen and has let some massive flashing lights pass her by. I’m hoping this is just a scriptwriters’ ploy and actually she’s been beavering away in the background. I’m not disappointed she’s gay, although the weeks of a pronounless Max was clumsy, but I’m disappointed she appears to be as mentally and spiritually weak as a kitten. Where oh where is Maxine Peake when you need her.
Hogwarts – please tell me she has followed up the Boarding School thing. I’m hoping it comes up in Henry’s interview that it was ‘Daddy’s school’ and she has checked with the Head. Then Rob can declare on the stand that Helen was delusional and she can waive the admissions form in his horrid little face. Not sure this will get us off the stabbing but at least then Anna will be able to shout “Liar Liar pants on fire” and it will be some comfort for us.
Tom the Rabbit with rise – I’m also hoping Rob’s instructions to Henry that he should never tell lies will come and bite him on the arse, and unleash the full horror of Tom the Rabbit, the Easter Eggs, Granny only wanting to see him on Sundays and how all good children must be quiet. I’m assuming Cafcass must be alert to these things and, if not, I might have to write a stern letter.
Culvert Operations – why on earth have Jennifer and David said nothing about Stefan and the culvert. You think it would have come up. If Shula is racked with guilt over not speaking out before now you would have thought there would have been at least a passing comment that maybe they should mention it. Jennifer should at least mention it to Justin. Will Stefan burst through the back of the courtroom at the 11th hour?
Witness for the Prosecution – Will Kirsty will have the opportunity to tell the whole story, or is she only permitted to speak about the night of the crime? I am not hanging any hope on Pat not to stuff things up.
Flesh wounds – why did Rob have so many wounds? Did Helen do them all or did Rob inflict a few of them himself?
There are more, but I’ll keep them to myself otherwise I’ll look like I think about these things too much.
Based on about as much legal knowledge as the scriptwriters, here’s my predictions.
Helen will be found Not Guilty of Attempted Murder but possibly guilty of Wounding with Intent.
However, Rob will be exposed as an abusive bully and Henry and Jack will be returned to Pat and Tony.
Rob will be run out of town in a scene akin to Murder On The Orient Express, with everyone lining up to give him a sharp blow to the cricket box as he leaves. This will not be before Harrison arrests him and informs him he is prosecuted under the new Coercive Control Act.
Helen will then get out on appeal and create a brand new line of Social Enterprise cheese and set up a new dairy next to the prison allotment.
We can all go back to worrying about whether it was really George that stole the curtain money.
Do join me and make mine a gin, darling.