The uk.media.radio.archers FAQ
This is an unofficial FAQ for the usenet group uk.media.radio.archers, commonly known as umra. This FAQ has nothing to do with:
- The "[pilgrimage]" of Islam
- The [Midget Racing Association]
- The [of Minnesota Retirees Association]
- The [of Manitoba Retirees Association]
The uk.media.radio.archers newsgroup was one of the earliest groups created within the uk.* usenet hierarchy. Its creation predates most of the current group formation policies and procedures, and as a result it has no official charter, and there has been no consensus within the group that one is needed. Umra gets by quite happily with the general idea that it is a usenet group for the sort of people who might want to listen to //The Archers//.
Umra attracts around 100 regular posters, some of whom have been posting since the group was founded, and averages around 4,000 posts per month. The number of Lurkers is incalculable, but thought to be roughly 10 times the number of posters. The nature of the group has led to a distinct feeling of community, and while there is not the degree of socialising associated with some usenet groups, there have been many social events, most notable of which is the annual umra BBQ, which has been hosted by the McMillans for the last ten years or so in their garden in Reading in mid-May.
Like all communities umra has evolved its own idiosyncrasies and indeed its own idiolect. One important feature of this latter is the tendency to refer to posters to umra as "umrats". The "-rat" suffix has subsequently been extended to denote subsets of umrats, according to occupation, location, or taste in popular culture. Examples include "Cheltrats" for umrats living in Cheltenham, "Corrierats" for umrats who watch //Coronation Street//, and so forth.
There is a comprehensive (if not entirely up-to-date) [of the nicknames and abbreviations used on umra], but umra's unique tone (peculiar flavour?) is a result of more than just vocabulary. There are a number of subjects, unrelated to //The Archers//, which recur in umra threads on a regular basis:
- Supermarkets, and more specifically their chirality. A clockwise supermarket has the tills to the right of the main entrance, while a widdershins supermarket has them to the left. Arrangements of entrance and tills that do not fall into either of these layouts are referred to however the poster sees fit. Posts that mention supermarkets without saying anything about the chirality often prompt friendly enquiries. Umrats like to know these things;
- Fish Puns. Umra is far from the only newsgroup to drift into fishpunnage at the slightest opportunity, but the group probably has a higher tolerance of them than most others;
- Chocolate and the bunker. Again, discussion of chocolate is not unique to umra but the choclate bunker probably is. Charles Hankel explains it: //The bunker is made of the purest fine chocolate and if you need a bolt-hole you would have to carve it yourself and dispose of the spoil. I still don't know how Liz does it and she's got a massive suite in here now...// Liz Blades adds //If everything gets too much for you we have a nice cosy bunker that you can come and take a rest in. Charles started to make it and I just joined in and made myself a nest in there.It (the bunker ) is for if you think you said something controversial that may upset other people. Hey let me show you around sometime, theres a darkened room with relaxing music,a library for those thoughtful moments,a sauna (though not too hot as it may melt the chocolate) and at present I'm working on a jacuzzi.(That's a surprise for Charles Christmas Pressie so don't tell him just yet)//. Recently for reasons related to Liz having become a missing person construction of a new bunker was undertaken by Mr Herber on the Berks / Hants border in a local nature reserve. Apparently it is even more impressive than the original.
- Charlotte Green and crisps. There is a considerable consensus in umra, as there would be with any body of right thinking people, that Charlotte Green, Radio 4 announcer, has The Sexiest Voice on the Wireless. She is also, many will tell you, the Greatest Living English Woman, and of her no ill can be said. If you're very lucky, one day, Sid will tell you the story of how he shared a packet of crisps with Ms Green. He can get a little over excited when reminded of this crowning moment though, and it is for his sake that umrats will generally refer only to "cr*sps", and "CG". It is also considered sporting to enquire after Sid's health whenever The News Quiz has forced CG to say anything even vaguely smutty.
- Bad Taste. There is a formal Bad Taste process on umra, under which posts considered to be in bad taste (and not merely vulgar) are nominated (traditionally with a riposte of //BTN!// (short for "bad taste nomination")). At the end of each year the Bad Taste Monitor conducts an awards ceremony at which the most egregious examples of bad taste are given Bad Taste Awards. The whole process sadly fell into disrepute for a while following the failure of the BTM to turn up at the Ritz to give out the awards, and there was a certain amount of gnashing of teeth. The replacement of the BTM by the Bad Taste Gecko stabilised things, but there was never an actual Gecko-driven award ceremony. The process has now been revived with a new Bad Taste Monitor and an award ceremony was held in January 2008. Bad Taste now flourishes on umra once more.
- Trolls are usually welcomed to the group with a friendly greeting and are encouraged to join in the general discussion. Obviously umrats hold many views but kindliness to trolls on the internet highway is recognised as being an unusual attribute.
- Monitors. There was an outbreak of these a few years ago but after a while they were all regarded as superfluous except for Al who keeps an eye out for people daring to mis-spell supersede. However we all like poking fun at typographical errors some of which have become institutionalised (such as wofe and husbad and husgod).
- Sid deserves another mention. One, he always has an eye out for the nun. Nuns have an important (if rarely mentioned) place in the umra psyche, and Sid is always keeping watch from the Campanile, in the hopes that the local sprinting variety will put in a rare visit. Two, if you are very lucky after a holiday he will provide an instant summarised version of newsgroup events during your absence so Mr Mark Read can be productive.
Is umra cliquey?
One recurrent comment from newly fledged umrats is that umra has a cliquey, exclusive or even imperious tone. This is something that surprises more longstanding umrats, and probably reflects the idiolect mentioned above.
Cliques within cliques?
Certain storylines, and indeed certain characters, have inspired strong views within umra, and these have, at times, led to the creation of "secret societies" within the newsgroup. One or two of these have been memorable enough to merit a page of their own.
About //The Archers//
Background - the short version
//The Archers// is the world's longest running radio serial (although there are many who claim that it is a fly-on-the-wall documentary), having been broadcast continuously since 1951. On Tuesday 7th November, 2006, it clocked up an amazing 15,000th episode, after a storyline which has had countless Umrats reaching for the "off" button for ever, or at least until a certain programme editor departs. The storyline concerned was planned over a period of more than two years and was not in the tradition of either the programme or the storylines which made the programme great. The programme was initially proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture, as an educational tool, it has now taken on a near religious significance for its listeners. It is the most popular programme on Radio 4. //The Archers// should never be referred to as a soap opera and is traditionally considered a fly on the wall documentary although the pick up of microphones is very selective and can extend outside the village for highly unusual events.
For a full account see Charles Hankel's History of the Archers. For events 1896-1994 see Peter Hesketh's Chronology of The Archers. For events 1995-date see [Harrison's Archers Plot Summaries]. For a family tree of the Archer family, see The Archers' Family Tree
//The Archers// is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 19.02-19.15 every day except Saturday and repeated the following weekday at 14:02-14:15 except on Saturday. The omnibus of the previous week's evening broadcasts is broadcast at 10.00-11.15 every Sunday. On Sundays when there is a cricket match covered by //Test Match Special// the omnibus Long Wave broadcast time is changed to 09:15. On Remembrance Sunday, the omnibus may be broadcast at a different time.
Just in case you didn't get that, the episode broadcast on Sunday evening is repeated Monday lunchtime, Monday's evening episode is repeated on Tuesday afternoon and so on. The Friday evening episode is not repeated on Saturday afternoon. The Sunday omnibus contains all the episodes from the previous week and then the whole thing starts again on Sunday evening.
If you nevertheless manage to miss the broadcast of an episode of //The Archers// you can now, through the wonders of the interweb, LA, or Listen Again.
Books, maps and audiotape about //The Archers//
There has been a number of books written about the series, including novelisations of storylines, behind the scenes accounts from those involved in the programme, and reference works on the characters and places featured in the programmes. For a full list, see the Archers Book List. Maps of Ambridge, Borsetshire and the surrounding countryside are listed in the Archers Maps List, and a wide range of audio material, including selections from the programme and audiobook versions of some of the books in the book list are listed in the Archers Audio List.
External Links for more information
- The previous [umra FAQ]
- For examples of some of the finest umra posts see [of UMRA (aka BUMRA)]
- [UMRA links], including the [Cookbook]
- A map showing where some umrats admit to living can be found on: []
- [BBC Radio 4 Archers website]
- [Addicts website]
- [Addicts independent website]
- [Anarchists website]
- [plot summaries] for daily/weekly summaries (website/e-mail)
- [article on TA] and the rather more amusing [equivalent].