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Monday 21 November 2011

Imagined Reality?

first posted January 2011 by Helen

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks sobbing, snivelling or dabbing at a tearful eye. Today I had another good cry. I attended a funeral.
It’s always hard when someone dies. Grief is a funny thing.

The trouble is, the person who died is not real. He is a character in a radio drama who has been spectacularly killed off.
Anyone reading this who is a regular listener to BBC Radio 4 will possibly know what I’m talking about. Fans of The Archers will certainly know!

Nigel Pargetter is no more. Ok, in reality he never was anyway, but – gosh, I liked Nigel – he made me laugh and he was a nice guy. He loved everyone, and loved life. He was kind, and quiet and gentle. The sort of person you'd treasure as a friend - because you know he would never, ever, let you down.

For those who have no idea what The Archers is – or haven’t been keeping up with the story line…. The Archers is “the story of everyday country folk” - a 15 minute daily (except Saturday) radio drama. The 1st of January 2011 saw its 60th anniversary. I have been an avid fan for over 10 years now – although I also remember hearing it on when I was a child.

The Archers are the lead characters, presently, Jill Archer & son David, married to Ruth, who run Brookfield Farm. Shula Archer, married to vet Alistair Lloyd. Kenton Archer – manager of Jaxx Bar and Elizabeth Archer – recent widow of…. Nigel Pargetter. The story is set in the made-up village of Ambridge in the pretend County of Borsetshire (basically a Midlands Shire near Birmingham) One of the characters, Peggy, has been in the series since the beginning - over sixty years. Her story line has been involved over the past few years with her husband Jack Woolley developing Alzheimer’s – a story line which has very much helped with the understanding of how people cope with this tragic illness.

There are quite a few main characters alongside the Archers and several story-lines running at once. For instance, we’ve had the local Pantomime (will Fallon actually get together with Harry?) Jamie the teenager doing his “it’s not fair” act – Pip struggling with getting through her exams …. Very much “everyday” issues, which is why I love listening to it. There IS high drama and OMG moments, but there’s also the latest batch of yoghurts in Ambridge Organics which has been labelled wrong. You really do feel that you are listening in to an on-running story of everyday folk in everyday situations – the mundane and ordinary as well as the big whammies. Just like real life.

The build up to the 60th Anniversary edition started before Christmas.

Nigel Pargetter (married to Elizabeth Archer ,…. Keep up there in the back row!) runs Lower Loxley Hall, a Stately Mansion. In order to keep it afloat he & Lizzie – with the help of other cast – run it as a business. Weddings, conferences, antiques fairs etc & the annual Christmas Bash when the grounds are transformed: A German Market, lights in the trees, an ice rink, the Hall itself decked out in evergreens, carol singers, father Christmas’s Grotto. Cranford Crystal, Nigel’s beloved Shire Horse, giving cart rides….. you see that was the thing about Nigel. He was green before green became fashionable. He recently donated part of the grounds to be used as allotments; he went by bicycle as much as he could – as the BBC website says he is most likely to say “Lizzie, do come and look at the meadow, it's heavenly. “

The BBC The Archers website  also says:

“Being born of country gentry isn't always an advantage in life, as Nigel found out when he inherited the dubious charms of Lower Loxley Hall. More used to playing the loveable fool, he discovered that funding the house's upkeep is a full time job, and he's happy and grateful to have efficient wife Elizabeth alongside him at the helm.
Some of his schemes have been a little bizarre, but most pan out well, with Elizabeth's sensible guidance to iron out some of his eccentricities.
Like a over-eager puppy Nigel bursts with enthusiastic ideas, some of which are indulged and some squashed. Luckily Elizabeth gave approval to both his wine production and "green wedding" plans. “
So why did I personally like him? He was fun. He was always up to some jape with best friend Kenton; he loved life. And he was a romantic.

Every year he dreamed up some special surprise for his & Lizzie’s anniversary. This year it was a surprise meal with a hired chef at Lower Loxley – complete with harpist. Lizzie had no idea! Just before Christmas he found an old brooch of his mothers, a bit dirty & dented, so he scooted around to find a jeweller who could clean it & fix it because Nigel wanted to give it to Lizzie as a surprise for New Year.

That was Nigel – the sort of guy we all wish we had as our own.

Just after Christmas he & Kenton Archer put up a Happy New Year Banner. It was supposed to go above the main door, but Nigel & Kenton fixed it up across the roof. Pretty high that roof.
On January 2nd he and David Archer went to take it down.

And Nigel fell.
Most of us Archer’s fans are still in shock.

Today, was the funeral. It has brought up the sensitive issue of should young children attend a funeral (Nigel & Lizzie’s children are Freddie & Lily Pargetter twins, aged 9)
Jack Firth (Freddie), Graham Seed (Nigel) Georgie Feller (Lily)
I put up a tweet on Twitter the other day: “#TheArchers Am I the only one still crying because Nigel’s gone?”
Someone answered “Oh ome on, he wasn’t real!”

Ah. But that’s the point isn’t it? He seemed real.

My answer was “But as an author MY characters are VERY real to me. I take trouble to ensure they feel real. And any good story, well written, should make the characters realer than real.”

Nigel was realer than real. I’ll miss him.

Actor Graham Seed who played Nigel Pargetter
Nigel died in a fall from the roof of Lower Loxley on 2 Jan 2011.

Actor Graham Seed played the character of Nigel for over 30 years. My thanks to Graham -  in the guise of Nigel - for being such a friend to me for 10 of those years.

The pictures are from the BBC Archer’s website. (I’ll probably get sued for using them :-/)

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