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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Social kissing and The Archers

There are many things that make Ambridge unique. No two residents have the same first name. Nobody phones anyone, preferring to pop round in person to ensure that their neighbours got the message about the latest project. This is the only village which has a net in-flow of people in their early twenties, most of whom are saving the planet, one yogurt at a time. Members of minority groups arrive in a blaze of controversy and then hang around like spare parts.

Until recently a further thing had made Ambridge an exception to the general drift of life in Britain in 2010. Ambridge was the only place in the nation where there was no social kissing. Guests would turn up at other people's houses for celebrations with none of that osculatory awkwardness in the hall where people have to decide which cheek to lunge for first and judge when everyone has "done" everyone else and it's safe to go and get a drink. This was a bit of a relief. However, all that's changed. When I first noticed social kissing arriving in the Archers - and there was certainly one occasion this past week - I thought to myself, I hope Radio Four are going to extend the running time of the programme by at least a minute to at least make sure all the kissing doesn't eat into the plotlines. Because the thing about social kissing, whether real or dramatic, is that once you start with it you've got to see it through.

Strange that this should arrive in The Archers just as I'm trying to cut down on it in real life. It has its place, of course, in expressing genuine affection and in some cases respect but it can make life more complicated than it need be. At what point does one extend it to your children's grown-up friends? What about those work colleagues who might expect a peck in a social situation but would be understandably freaked out if you started every day with a mwah? What about the people that one meets professionally, then socially and then professionally again? What about - and I confess I have come near this variant with not entirely satisfactory outcomes - the male-on-male mwah? I trust the people at The Archers have had meetings about all this and come up with rules. If they have I would appreciate them giving us all a copy.