Shula Archer’s 50. So is her twin brother Kenton of course, but he was always a light-weight with nothing like the dangerous sexiness of Nelson Gabriel whom he appears to have been modelled on. And he was, mercifully, abroad for decades.
No. Of the two of them, it is Shula who has grated on our nerves for all these decades. She’s been in the background of my life since my late teens: gettng inappropriate with Nigel in the days when he was stupid as well as posh, messing around poor old Mark Hebden, milking her widowhood for all it was worth and then marrying that drip of a vet and making his life hell. Poor fool.
Shula’s leit motif is self-pity. Her theme song should be Warren Zevron’s “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”. But in fact she’s a selfish, self-righteous, self-admiring cow. When I was a teenager, she was just enough older than me for me to be slightly wide-eyed and trusting about her. I’m not entirely sure when I realised how much I dislike her, and her whining, patronising ways.
No-one would believe that I don’t actually listen to the Archers. I’ve just caught the odd episode off and on since my mid-teens. There are whole swathes that I missed by being abroad or finishing work at 5.00 instead of 6.30. For example: Where the hell did Lilian appear from? Is Alice Aldridge really that age already? When did Ruth have her mastectomy and when did her kids arrive?
They’re like cousins that I meet or hear news of at weddings, christening and funerals. I catch glimpses of their lives and then we all retreat back home.
But I still find it oddly shocking that Shula, so untouchably admirable when I was in my teens, so smugly irritating ever since, should be menopausal and 50.