Underneath The Archers
By Graham Harvey
A powerful memoir by the environmental campaigner & former agricultural story editor of The Archers.
Tuesday, 19 April 2022
Like father like son
With his mad enthusiasms and unquenchable optimism, Freddy Pargetter sounds ever more like dad, the much missed Nigel. In his youthful days Nigel spent a lot of his time running around in a gorilla suit. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to hear that Freddy had dug it out from some forgotten Lower Loxley drawer and was now sporting it himself.
Nigel played a big part in my early Ambridge life. At first I worried how I was ever going to write him. How could I – a council house lad – possibly get inside the head of this aristo whose life had been all horses, hounds and death-watch beetle. Fortunately I had the teenage Elizabeth to help
Picture the scene. It’s autumn 1984. The miner’s strike is coming to an end. Stevie Wonder’s topping the charts with a little ditty titled I Just Called To Say I Love You. And on the streets of Borchester I’m watching a budding entrepreneur called Nigel launch his new and soon-to-be glittering career (another one!).
‘Watch this, Lizzie’ he says, full of confidence ‘Watch and learn’ She gives him a sad, knowing smile. She doesn’t hold out much hope for the new venture, any more than she did for the ill-fated swimming pool business. She knows him a little too well. And I’m beginning to.
Our fears are soon born out. His first attempt to reinvent himself as street vendor ends with zero sales and a couple of bruised ribs from an impatient shopper who rudely shoves him aside. ‘Maybe you’re not cut out for this,’ says sympathetic Lizzie. But plucky Nigel isn’t one to give up that easily
‘Listen, Lizzie,’ he says. ‘We Pargetters were selling wool to the Dukes of Lombardy back in the fifteenth century. If I can’t flog a few household gadgets in my local High Street the family’s in real trouble.’ End scene. Cut to village shop
That’s how I wrote my second ever Nigel/Elizabeth scene in The Archers. It helped get me my regular script-writing job and allowed me to follow their story until it ended in tragedy 27 years later. Like all relationships it had its ups and downs. But chiefly it was one of deepening love
Looking back these are the stories that stay with you – loves that transcend the whims and ambitions of writers. They become so strong you know they will never end. The collective imaginings of many become a truth that endures. It’s kind of alchemy. There are many stories like this in Underneath The Archers. I can’t wait for you to read them. Thanks again for your support.
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Freddie is certainly a chip off the old block.
posted 20th April 2022