You see, we’ve all grown up together, so we share a common history but now, sadly, three of my oldest and dearest friends have started to change. As a result they have become less welcoming to me, and I suspect to many of you also. Despite their own advanced age, they now give me the impression that I’m no longer ‘their type’ because I’m perhaps a bit too far ‘over the hill’. They no longer want to be associated with me and would prefer to ‘hang out’ with a younger crowd. In one case this has led to a complete breakdown in the relationship, in a second I’m struggling to remain loyal and in the third the jury’s out, but I sense that the end of the road may be in sight.

Who are these old friends? The first one is M&S which is well over 100 years old, the second is The Archers which celebrated its 70th birthday last week and the third is Woman’s Hour, which is just turning 75. Close companions for most of my adult life, but for how much longer?

When Old Friends Change.

1. Marks & Spencer. I would suggest that we may be the last generation to hold a truly sentimental attachment for M&S. This was a store which gave the impression of really caring for its helpful staff and satisfied customers. It’s clothes were never trendy or fashion led, but they were stylish, well made and, for the reasonable price were great quality. For years I’d never dream of buying my knickers, tights, nightwear or bras anywhere else. Hard to pinpoint just when my relationship with M&S started to sour. I remember going into a huge newly opened M&S store near Kew about 20 years ago in which I could find no suitable bra nor a member of staff to advise me. Since then the rot has truly set in. I no longer feel that M&S ‘speaks’ to me, nor does it want to.  If it had better and more nimble management and really understood demographics, M&S wouldn’t be choosing Holly Willoughby (39) as its poster girl. It would realise that there is a huge audience of stylish older women with money to spend who would love some interesting, well priced and well-made clothes if only they would stock them. My lifelong friendship and sentimental attachment is almost gone and nowadays, if I do pop into Marks I usually come out with something nice to eat rather than to wear.

2. The Archers. How can a radio soap which goes out twice a day for 15 minutes endure for 70 years? Especially as it’s set in the countryside and was originally conceived as a way to support farmers to grow more food after the war. I’ll tell you how: by being slow, character driven and incredibly predictable. I’ve listened to The Archers every day (usually during my evening bath) for donkeys’ years. I even remember listening as a young child with my grandmother. What I have absolutely loved is the real time pace of the stories. If a child is born in The Archers then we will listen as that child grows to maturity over a period of 18 years. Chickens may come home to roost but they may take a lifetime to do so. One character, Jill Archer, has been played by the same actress, Patricia Greene, for 63 years, and the 102 year old actress June Spencer is still playing 90-something matriarch and great grandmother Peggy Wooley after 60 years in the soap. Best storylines ever were when landowner and bigwig Brian Aldrich had an extra-marital affair with Siobhan which produced a baby called Ruari (who has just come of age). Brian’s long suffering and saintly wife Jennifer not only forgave her errant husband but agreed to care for Ruari when Siobhan sadly died. More recently a brilliant story line about coercive control of a husband (Rob) over his wife (Helen Archer) was spread over months as we avid listeners willed Helen to tell someone about Rob’s manipulative psychological pressure. And how we all cheered when Helen was finally acquitted of Rob’s attempted murder.  So why am I losing faith in my dear old friend? The pandemic is partly to blame. Unable to record as normal, the producers decided to move to individual monologues, but these lacked authenticity and I just stopped listening. Since then, two story lines about alcoholism in pregnancy and modern slavery have felt contrived and sensational. I’m losing heart and now, more often than not, my bath-time listening has been replaced by a podcast.

3. Woman's Hour: Another Radio 4 staple of the schedules which is a similar age to me. And another programme that the producers and controllers have decided is in need of shaking up in an attempt (I suspect) to appeal to younger listeners. Why else would they replace the two veteran presenters Jenni Murray (70) and Jane Garvey (56) with thirty-five year old Emma Barnett?  Barnett’s avowed intent is to ‘sex up’ Woman’s Hour and I quote:  “More Men! More Politics! No Baking!”. I’ve just listened to her first programme for W.H. It started with an interview with Sonia Khan, who was sacked by Dominic Cummings 18 months ago, which lacked cogency and relevance. It  was followed by a conversation with the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose five years in an Iranian jail on entirely false charges should come to an end in nine weeks time. I assume that for want of an appropriate government minister, they were joined by Jeremy Hunt to discuss the case. A bit of lighter relief was supplied by a song at the start from former Spice Girl, Mel C and a delightful interview with Imelda Staunton about her casting as the Queen for Seasons 5 and 6 of The Crown on Netflix. So, on Day One, two political stories, two male voices and a national treasure discussing her portrayal of a national icon. The jury’s still out for me, and I’m still listening for now but it feels a lot like a radio talk-show version of Newsnight at the moment.

Do I sound like an old ‘stick-in-the mud’ in bemoaning the ways in which my three reliable old companions in life have lost their appeal? After all, life moves on and nothing can stay the same forever. The trouble is that I think that M&S,The Archers and Woman’s Hour are all missing an important trick. They all seem to think that their survival relies on ‘sexing up’ their offering and trying to attract a more youthful audience. If only they would realise that in so doing they are in danger of losing their loyal, dependable and nostalgically inclined customers like me. They have also lost sight of the fact that we are a large and growing demographic. The younger audience that they crave has little personal investment in their history, tradition and longevity and probably wouldn’t touch them with a barge-pole however ‘modern and relevant’ they are desperately trying to become. We’ll see, but having survived for so long, I suspect that my old friends may soon be on life support, which would be extremely sad.

Tricia x

Here is the Bright Spots Programme and links for this week:


Makeup Magic with Tricia and Sally Deung 

All About Colour

Day: Monday 18th January

Time: 11am


Meeting ID (if needed): 892 4590 5309

Password (if needed): LOOKFAB


Virtual Teatime With Tricia: Jayne Mayled 

Founder of White Hot Hair

Day: Tuesday 19th January

Time: 4pm



Meeting ID (if needed): 817 1055 6225

Password (if needed): LOOKFAB


Eatwright cookery demo with Leonie Wright

Day: Wednesday 20th January 

Time: 2pm

Pre- Recorded Session



Tone up with Tricia and Lindsay Burrows

Day: Thursday 21st January

Time: 4pm

Pre- Recorded Session



Film Club Fridays - Clemency

Day: Friday 22nd January

Time: 4pm



Meeting ID (if needed): 836 4910 4699

Password (if needed): LOOKFAB

You can also keep an eye on the weekly schedule of Events which will be updated every Friday at 5pm (GMT) here: