Posted by Ivan Rendall on Monday, 31 March 2014 in Blogging
Alice has a degree in aeronautical engineering. She has a job in aeronautical engineering. We know very little about her job. This is clearly amazingly skillful forward planning by the Archers’ editorial team. Standby for a thoroughly modern storyline: Drones Over Ambridge!
Farmers of the alpha male persuasion (like Alice’s Dad) spend fortunes keeping track of their equipment and crops, the whereabouts of every tractor, combine, seed drill, disease, worker, animal, pheasant, poacher, trespasser, fly-tipper, thief, strawberry picker etc., etc.
So, one evening after a sumptuous dinner prepared in Jenny’s super-hi-technology laboratoire cuisinaire, Alice explains her job to Brian: developing civilian drones that will revolutionize farming.
They will provide an alternative to walking the fields to check on stock and crops and do much more besides: security, management, efficiency, costs and profit will all be enhanced so it must be good for everybody, especially the shareholders in Borchester Land.
Having drones over the farm becomes Brian’s next big project after the 1500 cow dairy herd. Though it’s partly to get back at Jenny for the kitchen.
Alice can hardly believe what she has unleashed, but she can’t put out the blue touch paper: this firework is going to go off.
Brian orders a drone and swears Alice, Adam and Jenny to secrecy. Then he turns to the person he always does: Debbie. She wants a drone too. Annabelle is brought into the loop and says the finance works.
However, while they are waiting for the drone to arrive, Jenny tells Lilian, swearing her to secrecy. But Lilian (in her cups) tells Eddie. Eddie tells Clarrie. Clarrie tells Susan on the yoghurt production line but is overheard by Pat.
By that time the story has grown even more than Topsy: Brian will have his own air force, aircraft will be overhead night and day equipped with video and audio, infra red and microwaves.
Imagine the opportunities for multi-layered misunderstanding, the staple diet of the Archers and Greek Comedy alike for 3 millennia.
By the time Pat tells Linda the drone will be able to photograph every backyard in the village and monitor every telephone conversation. Linda confronts Brian who splutters into his Chateau Lafitte, regathers his wits and tries to assuage Linda. He assures her that the drone will be good for farming but also good for the community: he will not be able to snoop on her sunbathing or loose off Hellfire missiles against badger sets, while at the same he would happily share his drone with her to monitor wildlife, woodland, birds, bees (in her bonnet or otherwise) and do all kinds of green things; it will also strike terror into the Borchester criminal classes, who will avoid Ambridge, and in a spirit of transparency, he will open to all video up to the community via the village website.
Linda totters home having wrapped herself round two glasses of Lafitte, ready to start converting the village to drones keen to start tracking the water voles on the Am.
Imagine the storyline possibilities: Rob (for it must come about) filmed in flagrante delicto with Annabelle; Tom’s pigs escaping from Tony’s cows through a hole in the hedge; local hoods creeping up on Jill’s cottage again; Sir Bradley Wiggins, incognito, looking to buy a plot of building land from Lilian and Matt.
The village is transformed: people stay at home where they can’t be seen; they stop using mobile phones; Brian, laden with information becomes a sort of local warlord.
The happily ever after moment comes when Josh takes up the crossbow as a hobby and late on the evening of 4th November, shoots the drone down over Leader’s Wood. Eddie finds it the following day, and places it at the top of the village bonfire. As it burns, the villagers chant old ballads which Jenny interprets for Brian meaning he will be on the fire if he gets another drone.