For very many years, my
wife and I have been passionate devotees of soap
operas. Coronation Street, Crossroads,
Neighbours, Emmerdale, Home
and Away, Hollyoaks, Doctors,
Eastenders and, of course, The
Archers on the radio - we have rarely missed
any episode. In recent times, however, storylines
have seemed less compelling and series have lost
their engaging spark.
Initially, this seemed
unrelated to the sad death of our elderly next-door
neighbour and the arrival of a family in what had
been his adjoining semi-detached house. The wall
connecting our properties is thin, however, and
loud verbal manifestations of their marital
discord soon became a daily occurrence.
At first, this was somewhat
irritating. Their clarity of diction and the
volume of their voices, however, were such that
we began to listen to the fascinating content.
Indeed we became disappointed when their speech
resumed normal levels and became more difficult
I teach acoustics and audio
electronics so it was simple to strategically
connect microphones to our connecting wall and
render all next-doors conversations with
perfect fidelity. It was better than any soap.
Among our new neighbours, their family and
friends were real-life storylines of which soap
writers could only dream: marital discord,
infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse, criminality,
sexual misbehaviour, truancy, juvenile crime,
teenage pregnancy and so on. It was all there! We
abandoned pale, fictional substitutes and
listened to little else.
However, George and Lynn,
who live across the road, soon detected something
unusual. They too were devoted followers of the
soaps and noticed very quickly that we were no
longer up to date with current plots. We had to
confess our new, alternative listening habits.
Soon they were joining us each evening to keep up
with developments at number twenty-four.
As word reached other
friends, however, our front room became
uncomfortably overcrowded. Also, as the most
interesting dialogue occurred at random times
throughout the day, everyone complained about
missing critical twists in the plot. I therefore
began to make recordings, edit these into half-hour
programmes and make them accessible on a password
protected Internet site.
All was well until we
noticed that one of our friends, Henry, was
starting an affair with the wife of the couple.
When confronted, he admitted that he had always
wanted to be in a soap opera and had seen this as
his chance. We thus formed an editorial committee
to approve any deliberate interventions into the
plot. This has proven very useful during the
inevitable quiet and unexciting periods in the
lives of our neighbours. Examples include the
theft of their car, the burglary, and the affair
of the husband with Joyce from Station Drive. We
vetoed the house fire and flooding suggestions,
firstly on grounds that we were living in the
connected semi, but also that evacuation or
destruction of their property would end the
current source of recordings.
We have now developed a
year long archive of daily episodes, and have
begun to ponder their commercial value. Clearly
it would be difficult to broadcast these in the
UK on a channel to which our neighbours might
listen. We have, however, had some signs of
interest from the States