Virginia Barton

27 November 2014: Thanksgiving in “Borsetshire”


27 November 2014



The Archers, the long-running BBC radio soap (unbelievably, 60 years), is featuring a “turkey pardon” this year. Every time it’s mentioned on the programme, it has to be explained.

Eddie Grundy, small-time farmer, fixer and “character” in the fictional village of Ambridge (in the pretend county of Borsetshire), flogs his Christmas turkeys round about now in advance of the festive season. He’s twigged on to the appeal of the American custom – even older than The Archers but not much, it having started in 1947, if Wikipedia is to be believed.

Eddie is staging a jazzy occasion with tankards of his home-brewed cider, a rustic band, fancy dress, and his big birds on display. The lucky one to be pardoned may well be chosen by lot; I haven’t been attentive enough to the story to be able to say.


p01lc1tsI’ve listened to The Archers on and off for years. What I like is that if you leave the Radio 4 programme for any reason (sheer boredom, living abroad, something more absorbing on another channel) and then go back to it, nothing has really changed and you can pick it up more or less where you left off. That’s clever. The characters rarely die and only occasionally move away.

The vicissitudes of the plot are not so complicated that one can’t pick them up after an episode or two. I guess it’s like writing romantic fiction – rather formulaic but not easy to master.

This particular soap used to be sub-titled “An everyday story of country folk.” No longer; in fact I doubt if “country folk” even exist in the UK any more.


Like every other soap, “Issues” are compulsory. From race (a smidgen), to sex (heaps), to religion (a polite nod on Sundays), class (oh yes!) and loads of money. Even the army gets a peek when one of the characters joins up. We haven’t had three-parent embryos yet, but we will. And I’d like to think that’s where I’ll leave it.

So Eddie will sell some turkeys this Thanksgiving, unless there’s a surprise attack of avian ‘flu.


No-one has mentioned pumpkin pie – which reminds me that I haven’t made one this year, shame!





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