Is #TheArchers like real life?

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We Archers addicts are waiting with bated breath for September and the trial when, we hope, serial bully and narcissistic cad Rob Titchenor will finally get his come-uppance.

But our hopes keep being dashed. Scruff has gone to his grave (alright, an urn in Lynda’s basket) without revealing the secrets of the flood. Shula’s confession (that she lied to the police and that Rob really did hit the hunt saboteur) may wreck her marriage and her saintly reputation. But it won’t help Helen. And Helen isn’t helping herself; she won’t tell Anna the full extent of the shameful secrets from her marriage to Rob.

It’s all very frustrating. Which is good for us listeners, because that’s what real life is like. As well as messy, inconclusive and often unfair. In this article from 2014, psychotherapist Philippa Perry explains why tragic events in fairy stories, books and films are good for children. They help them to practice the emotions needed to deal with real-life disappointment and loss.

We adults need the same. And we must prepare ourselves. Because the chances are that Helen will get convicted next month. I’m not saying this because I think she’s guilty. I believe that, at worst, she acted in self-defence. I say it because men like Rob often get away with it. The odds are stacked in his favour. He lacks emotions about anyone but himself. But he also plays the loving father and victim very well for short periods. He could fool the jurors. After all, he fooled most of us when he first appeared in Ambridge.

And the prosecution will paint Helen as an unreliable witness. We may not like it, but women like Helen, who have experience of mental illness, plus have had their confidence sapped by abusive partners and being separated from their children, often fare badly within our adversarial judicial system.

Some judges bend over backwards to make sure that vulnerable women get a fair hearing in court. But not all. The one who presided over the interim custody order for Henry seemed predisposed towards Rob. He was sharp with Anna and with Helen. Shockingly, that wasn’t unrealistic.

But we can still hope.

  1. We can hope that the trial judge is a bit more enlightened. But even then, the odds are stacked against Helen. Juries are made up of people representative of society. And like it or not, in our society, women are unfairly discriminated against, in court as in many other settings.
  2. We might also hope that Henry will remember what he heard, even saw, on the night that Rob got stabbed. Of course, we don’t know what actually happened. Or what Rob has subsequently persuaded Henry that he heard or saw. Henry could say something that makes things even worse for Helen.
  3. We can hope that Henry will tell the social worker that Rob has an evil temper, is always telling him to be quiet and a good boy, and does cruel things like threatening boarding school and confiscating his rabbit because it’s babyish. Rob’s parenting methods are based on what his own awful parents did to him. Plus he has told Henry that his Mummy is bad and has abandoned him. Henry may feel that Daddy is all he has left. The holiday with Pat and Tony has come at a good time. But we should be worried for poor little Henry, who seems unnaturally well-behaved given what has happened to him recently.
  4. We are of course all hoping that Helen will somehow find the courage to face what Rob did over many months when he isolated her, psychologically abused her, threatened her, belittled her and sexually assaulted her on the night that baby Gideon/Jack was conceived. And joked afterwards about her being a minx who made him get carried away. But Helen has buried those memories because they are disgusting and unbearable to her. She may never be able to face them, even though they hold the key to saving herself and her children.
  5. We can hope that Jess will have a change of heart and be prepared to tell the court what she has already admitted to Anna about Rob’s psychological and physical abuse of her too, and how she warned Helen about him. But it sounds like Rob has bought Jess off. And she is also probably frightened of him and maybe even still in thrall to him. As Helen may also be too. Men like Rob seem to mesmerise women. They wield physical power. But it is their psychological power that is the most threatening.
  6. We can even hope that somehow Stefan will reappear and spill the beans on whatever Rob did to cause the flood. Or that some other miracle will happen.

I’m definitely still hoping; the writers have had us on tenterhooks for a long time and we need a break. But I’m also preparing myself for the worst. Because  as a soap, The Archers must mimic real life.

And in real life, shit happens. Especially to people who don’t deserve it.

 

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42 comments

  1. Very impressed with ho they are handing it, especially now, everyone else is getting on with their lives while Helen’s mum, try as hard as she can, can’t think about anything else. Also the way that they are plunged into a totally different world. Not sure a police officer would be quite so involved in village life in the area which he is also policing. Perhaps a police officer could comment.

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  2. A few months ago, I recall the editor said something along the lines that this story-line is set to run for a few years yet, which would indicate Rob is unlikely to get his come-uppance at this trail. More likely then that Helen will be found guilty and the truth will not come out (if it ever does) for some considerable time.

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  3. You are so very very right when you state that it is the vulnerable and the supposedly weak who get a tough time at the hands of the judiciary . All through our lives we are taught that Might is Right and that to be a woman and a victim is a very unsafe place to be in May God bless Helen and Babes and protect them all . Amen x

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  4. Just hoping that Helen’s subconciousness will let go of those hard memories and that, by the time the hearing arrives, she’ll feel angry enough to stand up properly to Rob.
    That also happens in real life and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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  5. All I would say is, how many good books, plays or films are happy from start to finish? A soap has the option of a longer story arc, and can be more like real life. The Archers has become more realistic recently, I think. I personally approve of this, but I know some other longstanding addicts don’t agree.

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  6. I noticed before Henry went on holiday..Rob was asking him some questions..the Henry didn’t answer.then when you collected Henry from bridge farm on return..Henry wanted to see the pigs..rob bellowed “HENRY” ..Poor little lad..having to go back to BHC and rancid rob..

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  7. If Helen doesn’t smarten up soon and give her poor barrister some useful detail about Rob and his threats I will stop listening. I could shake her. Protection of her children should be her first action .

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  8. We have listened to The Archers for over forty years but my husband doesn’t want to hear it any more as a result of the storyline between Rob and Helen. He is tired of the misery every episode and the fact that Rob always seems to come off best. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel although I’m trying to remain positive and hopeful of a happy ending for Helen and her family. Although Rob has manipulated many people over the months no-one sees through him or they are too scared to say anything. It’s about time this was put right before all the listeners have switched off for good.
    Denise MacDonald

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  9. Self defence; Anna would have to establish that stabbing someone, whatever their gender, and nearly killing them no matter how provocative and unpleasant their behaviour was a use of “reasonable force” in all the circumstances. What’s Caz’s story? She was a lovely, sympathetic character who appears to have gone AWOL; loved it when she asked Helen if she was from “Downton Abbey”. Rob is a “Jekyll and Hyde” character well and truly f++++d up by his ghastly parents, but Helen is not exactly helping Anna, and much as I regret typing this, exhibiting those character traits in the way that she speaks to Anna that have not endeared her to me in the past.

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  10. I think the writers have to be very careful. Yes, domestic abuse is very real, but they mustn’t forget that in Helen and Rob’s case, the listeners (eaves-droppers if you like) have been there every step of the way. We’ve not only heard Rob abusing Helen, we’ve also heard Rob and his awful mother belittling her and her family in the most teeth-grindingly awful way!
    The Archers is going to lose listeners – possibly in their droves – if Rob Tichener doesn’t get some sort of comeuppance.
    He was responsible for the flood so we were given to understand, he could very well have done something unspeakable to Stefan, the Polish worker who blew the whistle on him … and surely Justin Elliot, who is supposed to be such a wizard, isn’t going to have fallen hook, line and sinker for Rob’s annihilation of poor Charlie Thomas?
    Take care, writers, this is a soap opera. Yes, stick to the bald truth as far as you can, but not to the point where real-life suddenly starts to becomes less painful than make-believe … that’s not what most of us listen to the Archers for – and I’ve been listening since Grace died in that fire!

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  11. Anna should say to Helen “if you want custody of Henry and baby Jack you’re going to gave to help me help you..because if you don’t help me and we lose the case..then you will lose both children” that might bring Helen to co-operate.

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  12. Kaz reappears and what a gut wrenching few lines she speaks about her domestic abuse. Try catching Episode 4 of the brilliant Radio 4 legal drama “Brief Lives”, where a similar male character to Rob is dramatically unmasked; Frank Twist settles for punching him on the nose…

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  13. A few above have insisted the writers give Rob his comeuppance but that would totally betray the realism of the plot so far: including the support it gives those of us who are similarly trapped. Helen will not remember the important events that incriminate Rob as part of her survival/living mechanism. That is part and parcel of what brought Rob and Helen into this co dependent relationship. A woman who was capable of remembering & countering would have run a mile or never been attractive to Rob.
    A mistake in the blog is to imply that the man victim of this kind of emotional abuse is less discriminated against & ignored by the family justice system. Cafcass & judges are very capable legitemising the female abuser especially as a parent.

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  14. Yes, yes, I see where you’re coming from, but I still say the writers MUST remember this is still a soap opera – and their jobs, if you like, rely on people tuning in to listen to their words. Surely I can’t be the only listener who feels personally involved in this story – poor Helen with her anorexia and her boyfriend blowing his brains out, her decision to be a single mother.
    I, for one, couldn’t even consider listening anymore if little Henry becomes another Tichener, and down the line starts to ignore his grandparents and verbally abuse his mother. At that point the Archers becomes not so much ‘an everyday story of country people’ but ‘a lesson in abuse, cruelty and the unemotional heavy handedness of The Law.’
    I’ll watch a six part ‘gritty’ police drama about this sort of thing … occasionally … but if the Archers is reduced to a daily fifteen minutes of pain and suffering; forget it!

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  15. Point taken Annie, maybe the writers need a tragic abrupt end to this story thread in order to relieve avid listeners and also uphold realism. Your Henry-contuing-the-pattern scenario is close to home. I have a 15 year old on that path and any intervention makes things worse – like quicksand. Minimum damage demands allowing distance to grow & let go. Maybe the Archers listener needs the same. The Titchners move to Portugal and Helen suffers fatal pneumonia.

    And / or a flight of fantasy in which Peggy starts a You.gov petition for Cafcass cases to be the subject of an ethonographic study into how institutions can identify & disrupt narcistic abusers manipulating mediation/judgements.

    Jed

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  16. Sorry, Jed, I think you’ve missed the point. This is a soap-opera, it’s not real life! I’m sure there are some terrible things that go on in real life, but to reduce the Archers to the level of EastEnders isn’t going to win them any plaudits.
    It is what it is, in its own particular niche, and after fifty years plus you can’t suddenly decide that it’s got to become persistently depressing – for no good reason. It isn’t as if Rob Tichener is a real person, so they must have had a long-term plan when they introduced him and I can’t believe that long term plan was simply to make the programme miserably down-beat with half the listeners grinding their teeth and screaming their desire for revenge.
    Yeh, sure, life doesn’t always have a happy ending, but Tichener and his awful mother swanning off with both the little boys and Helen dying of pneumonia simply does not fit the style of this particular soap-opera.
    I can’t believe I’m the only person who listens to the Omnibus on a Sunday morning to get a bit of relief from real life!

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  17. Point very much taken about the felt need of listeners to have a broadly optimistic escape and to be spared the relentlessly depressing. I wasn’t being exactly ironic with my ideas for the writers to move on but winding up this thread is the thing to do, I think. It would be a shame to bolt on an unrealisticly positive twist having upheld realism so far and no doubt having done some good awareness raising. (Of course the Archers was created for awareness raising albeit about food & agriculture) Confession time: I’ve never sustained listening to the Archers and the most important thing by far is for the writers to keep their audience engaged and it would be terrible if it began to throw off devotees like yourself.

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  18. Well, having listened to the Omnibus edition this morning with what would appear to be the suicide of Helen’s new friend in prison, combined with the egregious Rob interviewing what one supposes to be a pretty, innocent young thing all set to become his next victim, something MUST be going to happen in a fortnight’s time at Helen’s trial – other than the obvious: “Guilty! Seven year for grevious bodily harm and hand over your child!” … And you know, Jed, although that might be the closest to the truth it’s not a story as such. I’m a writer and my publisher always says: A few extraneous details, to build up the picture, but the STORY must move on!
    I hope you won’t feel, if this pans out as most iisteners hope it will, with Helen coming home and Rob being exposed as the bastard he is, that the truth as been sacrificed for the sake of drama – but I’m afraid that, first and foremost, this IS a drama.

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  19. Listening to tonight’s episode of the Archers..at the end..Good for Ian…putting rancid Rob in his place..I hope RR gets his come-uppance in due course.. he’s such a nasty bit of work.

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  20. Don’t you reckon rancid Rob has sized up Charlotte as his new conquest? I do. You could almost hear him fantasizing about a spot of sheet rumpling after he’d felt the need to tell her off for something she’d done with the children in that ‘oh dear, I’m SO disappointed’ way of his and she’d found herself desperate to say sorry! Oh YUK!

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  21. In Friday evening’s episode..I was pleased that Helen opened up to Anna and told her about the goading of rancid Rob and the knife.. Helen should tell Anna about the 2 or 3 times that Rancid Rob raped her. Also of the many times she was not allowed to collect Henry from school..when arsula “took over” .

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  22. This may not earn me any friends; but my take on the legal situation is; if Kaz had got hold of a knife, lashed out and stabbed her partner when he was subjecting her to that dreadful ordeal when he forced her hand into a hot oven, she would have had a reasonable defence to run. Helen inflicted serious life threatening injuries upon Rob, but was her reaction “reasonable force” given the circumstances.

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  23. “Perjury” and “spin” is committed on a regular basis, when giving testimony. What will be interesting is how Helen narrates and explains the events of that dreadful night. Anna certainly pushed some of Rob’s buttons…

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  24. Oops, perhaps Anna should have spent more time preparing Kirsty for giving evidence in a serious criminal trial. Surely Rob’s statement(s) to the cops would have been disclosed to Anna pre trial, and she could have prepared a X examination that went some way to exposing his “spinning” testimony?

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  25. Reading next week’s “Archers” story/ plot lines in newly delivered “Radio Times”, does not make me feel too optimistic about the outcome of the trial for Helen

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  26. I’m glad the rape incidents came out but felt for Helen.. I’m also glad that Jess has decided to come forward to give evidence. We all know that RR is a compulsive liar bully and rapist .. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when he commits another act of perjury. I will wait with baited breath for Jess….

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  27. Harrowing testimony from Helen. To be frank I have never warmed to the “Helen” character, but, trust that her truthfulness and genuine pain and mental anguish will influence the jury, or will be substantial grounds for mitigation if she is found guilty. I was bullied for a lengthy period of time at school by a boy, whom I believe went on to qualify as a solicitor. I reacted violently laid him out with a right hook after he harassed me for the nth time. Whilst not a lawyer by profession, I have a law degree. I could have killed or seriously and permanently injured him, so, occasionally, reflect as to whether I would have any defence to the launching of a verbally provoked violent attack that could have been life changing for both of us at 18 years of age ( I am now 70). I am cautious about adjudging Helen’s stabbing of Rob to be a use of “reasonable force” in the circumstances, but am hopeful that she will be dealt with leniently if found guilty.

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  28. That’s unfortunate that Ian was not too good in the witness box. But I’m glad that Jess Titchener volunteered to come forward….Bywater was a bully towards Helen. Bolshie Bruce just couldn’t keep his mouth shut and got the trial adjourned. I wonder what will happen when the trial re adjourns.well, there is away tonight (Friday) as well as the hour long edition on Sunday evening…I really hope Helen gets off.

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  29. Even Titchener chided his odious Father with a comment. perhaps ironic, that he did not want Helen to be bullied in Court. Bywater is breaking one of the “golden rules advocacy”, namely that the jury should like the advocate. One of the reasons that I deactivated my twitter account was the amount of abuse directed at the non abusive tweeters; abusive opinions such as that tweeted by the fictional juror. For expressing relatively moderate left of centre opinions public sector supportive I was dubbed “cretin”, “moron”, “loony”, and, ironically, given my size and physique “sad little old chap”. Titchener’s behaviour has been exposed and if that evidence is accepted by the reasonable juror he/she would have a great deal of empathy with Helen, but the severity of her attack, when it could be argued that Rob posed no apparent threat of overwhelming physical violence might not be viewed as use of “reasonable force”. However, if found “guilty” a plea in mitigation may carry weight with the judge in sentencing her.

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  30. Wow…Helen walks free..great…but RR has to lure in the shadows to confront Helen.. he’s still a nasty bit of work.. he will NEVER get Jack..I hope Helen can get Henry back from Rancid Rob. Helen seems to be stronger now and will definitely stand up to RR. He will have no control over her now. The next thing she should do is divorce him…and the sooner the better.

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  31. I reckon she should turn the tables and take HIM to court – for rape! Dear God, did you hear the rancid little worm; “Even after all this, I still can’t take my eyes off you…” Yuk!
    I think a riot in the village is on, and when they’ve kicked and beaten him to death they can bury him under Linda’s resurgam stone!!!!

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  32. Annie..I did hear the smarmy little creep say that…what an obnoxious little worn he is..and “all these lies you told about me”. Nobody will give him the time of day day now.. and what about Susan who thinks the sun shines out of the sole if his shoes….I never did like Susan..gossiping cow!! Tomorrow RR will tell Henry that he loves him…oh yeuch…I don’t think the love is returned. But once Henry sees his mum…he will want to stay with her.

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  33. Reminds me of a quote in some USA made film that “some people need killing” or words to that effect. This verdict sends a message of sorts, and, much as I find RT loathsome, I remain unconvinced by the success of a “reasonable force” self defence defence succeeding in those particular circumstances; I wonder whether or not the script and production team experimented with different outcomes. Nigel Havers comes from a legal family, wonder what he thought of it. Eileen Atkins the calm voice of commonsense, reprising her “Doc Martin” character was a delight. Certain that there are more “dark secrets” about RT to be revealed, but more “pain” for Helen and family; perhaps RT will try and pursue a civil claim for damages…

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  34. Well I sincerely hope so – after all it’s not that long ago that Tony and Pat had the little boy all to themselves for a week and hopefully they regularly pushed the point that his mother loves him.

    A lot of people have been saying to me they can’t believe how long this storyline has been going on for – and that’s the bliss of radio, things can be played out at normal speed. I’m certain of one thing, Rancid Rob isn’t going to hide behind his front door licking his wounds, you can be sure of that … so hopefully there’s still lots more to come.

    I can’t see that he has any lawful claim on Henry; he’s NOT Henry’s father whether he likes it or not, and if anyone has any sense he will only be allowed supervised visits with Jack, because I wouldn’t put it past him to kidnap the child … and oh PLEASE don’t let Helen fall for any crap from him; let her prove that she is one tough lady and isn’t going to be had twice..
    You know the old adage: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

    I would like to see some of his sins catch up on him, I must say. He was responsible for that flood, so where is Stefan, who blew the whistle on him? And surely Justin Elliot has to have some sort of long-term punishment in mind – otherwise he has no right to be the shrewd businessman he’s made out to be! Let’s hear what Charlie has to say about it!

    I WANT RANCID ROB TO BE HUMILIATED, PREFERABLY PUBLICLY!

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  35. I was quite surprised to hear Henry saying “I love you daddy” before RR knocked at the door of Bridge Farm..I was also disappointed that Henry didn’t seem pleased to see Helen..but glad that Helen told Henry that his baby brother was called Jack and not Gideon. When RR wanted to see Jack and Pat shut the door in his face..Re started blubbing…what a woos. The sooner Henry is removed from RR the better. Helen should apply to the court to revoke the parental order and have sole custody of her son. RR should have supervised visits to Jack only..and NOT at BHC. And…she should divorce RR.

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  36. I am afraid that the Pat, Tony, Helen and Tom quartet have never featured amongst my favourite characters, but Bruce, Rob and Ursula are for want of a better word “evil”. At 70 I may not be around when Henry and Jack are teenagers and twenty somethings, but I have every sympathy with them and the damage that will be done to them by the adults that surround them. What this story line has shown is that Cameron’s “broken Britain” is not just a feature of the horribly named “sink estates” and “benefit streets”,,,

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  37. I’m so glad for Helen that she has got Henry back..together with Jack. That poison ivy arsula got what she deserved from Pat. Now Helen can get on with her life with her two boys.. She should divorce Rancid Rob ASAP.. Keep Henry as far away from him as possible..but RR has a legal right to see baby Jack..very much supervised..I reckon that Justin Elliot VB will not give him a Jon after all…and Uses will evict him from BHC…This I’d only my speculation..I could be wrong… we’ll just have to wait and see.

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  38. I’m glad that the Sunday visit went OK for baby Jack…RR is still trying to break the rules. Is he stupid or what?! I think Helen should sit down with Henry and explain why he will not see Rancid Rob…the sooner RR gets banged up for raping two women..the better. But Henry nerds to be told..and soon.

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  39. Erm … yup, he’s stupid! What worries me is that he’s dangerous and will keep on and on pushing the boundaries. If Helen decides not to have him charged with rape I think she’ll end up being very sorry, because RR thinks the hassle is all over now and he can quietly move forward, making his own plans. Then suddenly at a moment when Helen finally feels safe enough to relax; wham, he’ll move in and set about destroying her.

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