Knowing that the trial would take all week, I decided not to listen each evening, when the radio is on vaguely in the background while I eat dinner. I figured - rightly - that it would be hugely stressful to drag out the trial all week and would listen to it in one go while I did the ironing on Sunday morning. Which I did, having to step back at one point because I was so blinded by tears. It was terrible listening. It was heartbreaking and maddening - heartbreaking because you feel every ounce of pain that Helen has been through and maddening because you hate Rob violently, knowing he will never get his comeuppance. Why am I listening to this bloody stuff, I asked myself at one point. It's so cruel, so unbearable, so difficult to distance oneself from - but that, of course, is the reason. You can't distance yourself because you are emotionally involved. You listen because you care about the characters.
I haven't always been an Archers' fan. When I first began listening to Radio 4, I used to leap across the room to turn off the Archers when it came on because I hated the theme music. But then one Christmas, Radio 4 trailed a half hour special on New Year's day - I think it was some or other anniversary. Was it 60 years? Yes, it must have been because Henry was born on that day and he is now 5 and blah blah blah, dear me, yes, I know it too well. So the first episode I listened to had Nigel falling off a roof that was at least 20 stories high because, golly, he screamed for a long time! It took me YEARS to work out who everyone was and there are still characters I don't know. There is a lot of history I don't know either. But worse, sometimes the women's voices sound the same (the posh ones) and I can't quite work out who's talking. But it doesn't matter. It's vaguely pleasant and interesting, quite often stupid and irritating (I do really wish the ghastly Pip had buggered off to Brazil and stayed there) - but then you get the occasional brilliant storyline, like Rob/Helen one, and it's worth it. I feel rather sorry for the actor who plays Rob because he himself is being regarded as the villain - which just goes to show how good he is. Let's not forget that he was acting a character that was acting breaking down in tears while on the stand. And he was convincing. What makes him so scary is that he has a wonderful, rich, warm, seductive voice on radio - it's utterly feasibly that sensitive Helen would have fallen for him. And utterly feasible that he turned out to be so viciously cruel.
Quite a lot of the time I wish Helen had managed to kill Rob quite completely dead because this story is not going to go away. I wasn't planning to listen to the hour long episode last night as I was quite shattered after the omnibus. That was really intense, my daughter said, coming in when it was done. I'd had the radio so loud half the neighbours were probably listening avidly too. And while I didn't listen to most of the irritating argumentative jurors' story, I was in the bath when the verdict came in. Much splashy clapping with joy - and then more tears that were lost in the bath. The relief was immense. I think if the verdict had gone the other way, I might have stopped listening forever. There is only so much pain that a radio audience can take.
The picture, by the way, is the one used on the Ambridge Synthetics Twitter account.