Charlotte Higgins on The Archers: Oliver and Adil pull a P&O Ferries and sack everyone at Gray Gables | Radio

Many questions lingered in the air this month. For example: does Ruth Archer go on about slurry? Or so she herself pettishly enquired. Answer: no more so than I would like to imagine necessary to soften us up for her husband David’s drowning in a pit of effluent, a development for which I have long hankered. Sadly this now seems unlikely, as Brookfield is investing in a cover for its slurry store. Do most listeners mentally, if not actually, tune out during these patently dull “farming bits” the Ministry of Agriculture once levered into proceedings? Back in the day, they were the pedagogical pill for which the rural adultery, mutual loathing, etc, were merely the sweeteners. I admit I find them marvelously soothing. The real story of The Archers, however, may be about the characters’ relentless pursuit of sugary baked goods: faced with Natasha’s gestational diabetes, her parents-in-law, Tony and Pat, have decided to “have an affair” with puddings, setting forth for secret cheesecake in the Orangery at Lower Loxley and clandestine sticky toffee pudding at the Feathers. “The world our rum baba,” claimed Tony, inaccurately: as we all know, there’s a mystery forcefield preventing him from leaving Borsetshire at all. When someone asked Kathy Perks if you can get Radio Borsetshire in Hereford, the answer should have been a resounding no, just like you can’t get Radio Brigadoon in Perth.

Yes, Kathy Perks! After years of silence, the manager of Gray Gables is audible again – revealed as the mystery wearer of the Easter bunny costume who, face it, was never going to be Rob Titchener returned in disguise to abduct little Jack, though that would have been quite exciting. She’s reappeared just in time for Oliver and his new business partner, Adil, to pull a P&O and make the entire workforce of Gray Gables redundant without a statutory consultation period. It had to happen: the fabled gables were increasingly, well, gray and, by the sounds of it, peeling. It seems it’s going to be renovated for a year and reopened as a slightly less terrible hotel. I would have thought a different business might provide more plot opportunities. Nuclear power station, Springfield? Young offenders’ unit? Asylum seekers’ “reception center”? That would be nicely topical, what with the real-life plans to establish “Guantánamo-on-Ouse” in a bucolic Yorkshire village.

Ruairi has come back from university – in an eyebrow-raisingly implausible twist – on the game, or at least being kept in expensive booze and holiday flats by one Julianne, a loaded older woman. Vince Casey, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time this month dying for a pee. Prostate problems? You heard it here first.

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