There’s a very interesting new story line in The Archers. All right, I admit it, I listen to The Archers. Anyone who has no interest in them at all might want to stop reading now. But you might not because it concerns a branch of the Archer family where there are very interesting genetic and non-genetic connections.
Here’s some background. Pat and Tony Archer had three children, John, Helen and Tom. John was killed in a tractor accident approximately twelve years ago. Helen is single and had a son Henry by donor conception earlier this year. Tom makes sausages and is engaged to Brenda. Through the death of a member of another Ambridge family, Pat and Tony have discovered that just before he was killed, their son John fathered a child with a girlfriend the family disapproved of. At John’s funeral the girlfriend was cold-shouldered by John’s family. She did not tell them she was pregnant and the child, a boy, has been brought up not knowing about his father or his relatives.
Pat and Tony would love to have contact with the boy Rich, but his mother Sharon will not allow it. Helen and Tom do not want to stir up old painful memories and do not know that their mother has been in touch with Rich’s mother. Pat and Helen both have a history of depression and Helen has had an eating disorder in the past. Both are pretty distraught about the situation, Pat wanting contact and Helen not wanting it.
The one person who does not seem to have been thought about is Rich and his right or need to have contact with his father’s family. In fact if the situation continues like this he will have less information and access to his paternal genetic relatives than Helen’s son. Henry, being conceived since 2005 will have the right at 18 to information about and contact with his donor and be able to register to be connected with half-siblings by mutual consent. If Rich is kept in the dark by his mother he will have no such rights. So far Helen has yet to see the irony of the situation.
In tonight’s episode (7.00 Radio 4) Tony ‘phones Sharon’s husband to plead with him for Pat to be able to meet Rich. Tony talks very movingly of how the death of a child affects a family and how worried he is about Pat. The husband, however, thinks that Sharon will not listen to Tony’s plea and speaks of how disorientating contact with Pat and Tony would probably be for Rich. This is the first time that Rich’s perspective on all this has been mentioned.
For those not familiar with The Archers, this radio soap opera set in a Midlands farming community, has been running for as long as I can remember. My mum used to shoo me out of the kitchen so she could listen to it. It is very clever in that stories are often rooted well in the past (although they do topical stuff well too) and often take a long time to unfold and in ways the listener might not suspect. Let us hope that at some stage someone will make the connection with Henry and his needs and rights. In the meantime listen in or watch this space. I’ll be coming back to this.