Sunday, 15 October 2017

Food producers ready festive launches

It will be the ‘battle of the bottles’ this festive season in Ambridge as three local artisan producers aim to woo customers with their Christmas offerings.
At Grange Farm, the Grundy family claim they have hit on a winning combination with their offer of a free bottle of cider, made with heritage ‘Tumble Tussock’ apples, with each turkey. ‘We’re also throwing in a copy of our Emma’s Parish Council election manifesto,’ said Eddie Grundy .’Give people summat to talk about round the Christmas dinner table.’
 At Hollowtree, Toby Fairbrother says that Scruff Gin, the brand he started last year, is taking off after a patchy start. ‘Things are so busy with Christmas orders, I’ve barely got time to check out Tinder,’ he says.
At Bridge Farm, Tom Archer will be testing the market for kefir, his fermented yogurt drink, with a soft launch for Christmas.
‘I did suggest having a kefir luge at the Hunt Ball, but for some reason they preferred vodka,’ said Mr Archer. ‘I’ve also had to limit  the range of flavours, as the staff were getting a little too enthusiastic and not focusing on Bridge Farm core products. So Susan Carter’s suggestion of chilli-flavoured kefir is on the back burner for now.’

News in brief

• Female members of the Ambridge Cricket Club will have their own changing facilities next year thanks to a generous donation from Mrs Christine Barford. ‘We are very grateful to Christine for her support,’ said captain Harrison Burns. ‘She has promised that if she starts baking now, she will have enough rock cakes to build a pavilion in time for the first match of the season.’

• In a break with tradition, this year’s South Borsetshire Hunt Ball will be dancing to the music of two young DJs instead of the Tommy Croker Band. MC Fred E. P. and Durban grooveslinger ‘Don’t call me Nolly’ Madikane will be mixing kwaito, zouk, reggaeton and Afro house with some Naija pop, soukous, mbalax and old-skool R & B. ‘It sounds like great fun,’ says Shula Hebden Lloyd, who is organising this year’s event, ‘although I wasn’t quite sure whether they were reading me the playlist or the canapés menu. But after few trips to the vodka luge I’m sure hunt members will get into the swing.’

 Robert Snell’s Parish Council election bid got off to a faltering start this week when he mixed up Poppy Grundy, four, and Keira Grundy, six, while on the campaign trail. ‘Poppy is a sturdy child, it’s true,’ said Emma Grundy, Mr Snell’s rival. ‘But the fact Robert confused her plain features with my little princess Keira just shows how out of touch he is with issues that really matter to people in this village and that’s what I’m going to change in this village it’s not just about whether your face fits and who you know in this village..’ (that’s enough election news. Ed).     

Your week in the stars

Our resident astrologer Janet Planet reveals what fate has in store for readers:


Aquarians in the hospitality industry will be flat out as temperamental Sicilian colleagues leave you in the lurch. But with typical Aquarian ingenuity, you probably have a solution up your sleeve – or in Bulgaria, anyway. Play your cards right and things at home and at work could be looking up by Christmas!


Ouch! Amorous Pisceans will find themselves regretting acting on impulse. Exes, even feckless ones who owe you money, have feelings too and trying to snog their face off is likely to lead to embarrassment, especially if you still look like the Elephant Man.


Bromance is on the cards for professional Leos as an unlikely encounter with a wise builder makes you feel better about your problems. When you’ve killed one horse, missed a pressure sore in another and conducted  500 bovine TB tests with your wife wittering on about vodka luges, a few chuckles over laminate flooring disasters will soon put your troubles in perspective.   


Scorpios who are in the dog-house, romance-wise, find help from an unexpected quarter. Advice from your fiancé’s former partner on how to handle a tiff raises your hackles at first, but soon has you back in the master bedroom. But beware of exes playing Cupid – they may make you look stupid in the end!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Council in crisis and is Kate a good egg?

Council in ‘existential crisis’ leadership shocker

Ambridge Parish Council was rocked to the core this week as it was plunged into what chairman Neil Carter described as ‘an unprecedented constitutional crisis.’
Following the resignation of Oliver Sterling, a vacancy has arisen and for the first time in living memory, more than one candidate has expressed an interest in taking over.
‘We’re really not sure of the procedure,’ said Mr Carter. ‘The last time we had an election in the parish, Nathan Applecore stood against Sir Grimwood Buckle and won on a platform of repealing the Corn Laws.’
To add to the complexity of the situation, one of the candidates for the vacant seat is Mr Carter’s daughter, Emma Grundy, whose passionate defence of the proposed new housing at Bridge Farm has already seen her labelled a ‘firebrand’ by some local residents.
‘This Council is too pale, male and stale. It’s about time it was shaken up a bit,’ said Mrs Grundy. 'Ambridge needs to take people like me and my family seriously and there are plenty round here who agree with me. Jill Archer has already said she’ll support me at hustings. She’s making weapons-grade flapjacks specially.’
Mrs Grundy’s opponent, Robert Snell, says he is ‘surprised but prepared’ to contest an election. ‘I’m standing on a bird-watching platform at the moment,’ he said.’ But as soon as I’ve finished my sandwiches I’m going to get on with campaigning. Lyndy has given me some lovely ideas, such as compulsory book club membership and funding half-price cappuccini for senior citizens at the Bridge Farm tea room.’

My Week, by Kate Madikane

We catch up with the owner of Spiritual Home, Ambridge’s very own eco-spa, as she reflects on the nature of motherhood…


Children are such a blessing, aren’t they? Especially when you’d completely forgotten you had a daughter, and then she pops up as a surprise present for your 40th birthday!  Nolly (no, Noluthando – I must remember she’s all grown up now!) is such a joy to me. Once she’d recognised me at my party, we were soon much more like besties than mum and daughter. Of course, living with her father in Durban has rather restricted her mindset and to be honest she could be more respectful of my spiritual integrity and holistic practices. But we all come to truth in our own way. As long as it’s my way, of course.


Being around Nolly (I mean, Noluthando!) has made me feel so connected with myself as a mother. Not like with Phoebe – she takes after her father, basically quite dull. Super-brainy of course, she must have got that from me. No, I can see my own free spirit and strong sense of self in Nolly (surely, Noluthando? Ed). So much so, that I felt moved to share that gift with my brother and his husband. When I graciously informed Adam that I was prepared to bestow on them the full bounty of my womb by acting as their host mother, he was literally speechless. I know! Sometimes people are so overwhelmed by gratitude towards me, it is hard to be humble.


Nolly (oh, whatever. Ed)  and I had a wonderful mum-and-daughter bonding trip to London today. Of course, I hate the shallow, capitalist delusion of shopping for clothes and going to restaurants, but as we were spending my father’s money the bad karma is all his. People often misunderstand this.


What people don’t appreciate about me is that I’m a really careful, wise listener, always ready to see others’ point of view. So when my sister Alice had a word with me about my selfless gesture to be Adam and Ian’s surrogate, I listened closely.  She pointed out that I might sacrifice my business, my relationship with my children, and my figure by having another child. And, even though my vegan diet and yoga-honed uterus are the perfect environment for any foetus, I began to see that she was right. And, because I am truly generous of spirit, I allowed her to break the news to Adam and Ian for me. If only people like Roy could be as relaxed as me! He’s always fretting about silly details, like the restaurant manager at Grey Gables storming out in the middle of service. I said, ‘Roy, so a customer ended up wearing two crab risottos and a bavette tartare. Serves him right for not being vegan. Chill!’


As I said, children are a joy, and sometimes they give you even more joy than you actually wanted! Noluthando has decided she would like to stay in Ambridge, and having spoken to her father I think she really needs some proper, empathetic maternal love. At least until Christmas. After a few months of vegan food, hatha flows and shaman rituals with me, I’m sure she will realise that her true spiritual path lies at Felpersham International on the way back to South Africa. Of course, I will be sad, but I have to follow my own true mantra of motherhood: ‘If you love them, let them go.’ 

Pet of the Week

Name: Titan

Owned by: Mrs Ramsay, Haybury

Likes: Polo mints, 3-day-eventing

Dislikes: Going to the vet; being gelded

(Urgent note to subs: pull this item. Alistair Lloyd says there was a balls-up in surgery. Ed.)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Darrington nick the win: Burns nicks no one

A strong showing from Ambridge’s women was not enough to save the injury-hit team from defeat against arch-rivals Darrington in the end-of-season clash on Sunday. Despite a captain’s knock of 85 from Harrison Burns, the Ambridge innings tailed off weakly, not helped by Roy Tucker, whose heart was clearly not in the match (no, it’s in Bulgaria. Ed.) Darrington captain Chris Mills appeared unstoppable until caught by Ambridge twelfth man Jolene Archer off a finely judged short ball from Anisha Jayakody. But this was the highlight of a patchy performance and Darrington won by a wicket.
‘I think everyone knows who really won this match,’ said Harrison Burns. (Um, yes, Darrington. Ed.) ‘If you look at the league table, although we’re at the bottom we are actually at the top. Because we are nicer people. It’s a rule I apply to my crime clear-up record all the time. By the way, I don’t suppose you could ask your readers if they’ve seen a stolen loader anywhere? Somewhere near Brookfield? I’ve been too busy to look.’

Ask Auntie Satya

She’s back! With her warm, wise wit and forensic legal skills, Auntie Satya is here to tackle all your emotional and practical dilemmas.

Dear Auntie Satya,

My husband and I are desperately saving for our own home, but now he says we should spend some of the money on ram semen. Am I right to wonder if we still want the same things in life? Emma.

Dear Emma,

I confess I was not entirely sure what ‘ram semen’ is. It sounds like one of those fanciful names for colours you find in superior paint brochures. But I now see where the confusion over ‘saving for a deposit’ has arisen. In my experience, mortgage lenders always prefer cash. Try to find a compromise if you can.

Dear Auntie Satya,

I was off work this week after being kicked in the face by a cow, and when my ex, Toby, came round to cheer me up I found myself enjoying his company, even though he is a feckless, faithless waste of space. Is there something wrong with me? Pip.

Dear Pip,

In your longer letter you tell me the doctors at Borchester A & E ruled out concussion after your head injury. This sounds like medical negligence to me. Go back to your GP and demand a second opinion.

Dear Auntie Satya,

I thought my dreams had come true when my best friend Helen suggested that she might be willing to be a surrogate mother to a child for me and my husband Adam. But then she changed her mind, saying it wouldn’t be fair on her own two children.  I pretended I was fine with it, but secretly I feel hurt and betrayed. Am I wrong? Ian.   

Dear Ian,

I can see that you must be bitterly disappointed, but perhaps this is for the best. Surrogacy is a life-changing experience that could have ruined your friendship. Agree with Helen that in future you will only accept less emotionally charged gifts, such as cheese. 

Borsetshire Rural Cinema 

Showing this week: A comedy double bill!

100 Things I Hate About You. The rom-com classic of the 90s is brought bang up to date as bad-tempered Kate reaches 40 and challenges friends and family to tell her home truths about herself as a gift. Fur flies as feisty sister Alice takes her at her word, and the surprise arrival of Kate’s teenage daughter Noluthando only adds to the mayhem as Kate is taught a lesson about life, love and not abandoning your children in South Africa.  Advisory: some very awkward scenes.
Two Men and a Baby. In a budget remake of Three Men and a Baby, Adam and Ian search for a surrogate mother for their child. Will they find someone willing, reliable and not too flaky, like that Victoria they met at the party? Will Adam overcome his dislike of dirty nappies so that Ian can achieve his dream of bringing up a baby of his own? And how will they react when Adam’s mum Jennifer offers to buy them a toddler off the internet? The road to parenthood is a rocky one in this heartwarming family saga with a modern twist. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

AmOb fiction special: The Trials of Roy Tucker

In the latest chapter of our passionate serial, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero finds the sweet taste of romance soon turns to bitter tears of heartbreak and regret…

Roy strode into the Flower & Produce Show, nearly tripping over Cecil Jackson’s giant marrows in his eagerness to reach Lexi. She had never looked lovelier, laughing as she explained the intricacies of Bulgarian dessert-making to an enthralled audience of Bert Fry and Joe Grundy. ‘Well, if there was a prize for prettiest cook, you’d win it, missus!’ chuckled Joe. The old goat! Roy could feel his fists clench. This is what a woman like Lexi did to a man! He wanted her all to himself, forever…. But even as he framed the thought, his spirits fell. Soon, all too soon, she would be flying home, leaving him only with the memory of her prize-winning banitsa and a dog-eared copy of The Golem’s Totem Pole… But what had Kirsty said? ‘Come on, Roy! Seize the day, enjoy it while you can, life’s too short and all that kind of thing! Tell Lexi how you feel!’
He stepped masterfully past Jennifer Aldridge, who was weeping fat, silent tears onto her over-baked apricot frangipane, and swept Lexi into his arms. She smelt deliciously of cinnamon, with a hint of polytunnel. ‘Oh, Roy! I am having such a lovely time!’ she breathed. ‘Shall we get ice cream so I can lick it in that way you…’ ‘Yes, Lexi. Yes!’ Roy was in heaven as he steered her out of the hall…


On Tuesday evening, Roy was trudging along the lane past Brookfield, deep in thought. He’d told Kirsty he needed to clear his head after the day’s disastrous laundry mix-up at Grey Gables. But there was only one thing on his mind: Lexi. Did she really have to Skype her mother about Violeta’s troubles at school? Or was she trying to avoid him?
A huge, rusty loader rumbled past him in the gloom, but Roy barely noticed it. He longed to tell Lexi how he felt, but when – and where? He could hardly turn up at the caravans, with their odour of bleach and bin bags full of Constantin’s discarded boxer shorts… Suddenly a leaflet, stuck in the hedgerow, caught his eye. ‘Felpersham Pop-Up World Street Food Festival.’ This was perfect. Where better to woo Lexi, a woman with cosmopolitan joie de vivre and a degree in hospitality management? Stuffing the leaflet into his pocket, Roy sprinted home with new purpose, waving cheerily at the man in the stocking mask and striped jumper who was driving the loader…


‘Ooh, Roy… pulled pork! I want it right now!’ Roy blushed to his ears. ‘Me too Lexi, just wait till we get home….’ he stammered. ‘No, silly!’ she laughed delightedly. ‘I want to eat pulled pork, and lobster roll, and tacos, and Pad Thai and Chinese dumplings…’ Lexi’s eyes were shining in the light of a Mongolian barbeque, melting Roy’s heart faster than fat on a buffalo burger. Was this the moment? Awkwardly, he got down on one knee, narrowly avoiding a pool of spilled fruit lassi. ‘Lexi, I…’  But suddenly her phone rang. ‘It’s Mama!’ she said. ‘I must answer it. Sorry, Roy….’ She turned away, chattering urgently in Bulgarian.
Cursing his luck, Roy wearily got to his feet. He looked up, and through the smoke rising from the Korean fire pit he could see an airliner travelling far, far away from Borsetshire. How long would it be before Lexi’s family commitments in Bulgaria would take her away from him? And could they keep a long-distance relationship going on a shared passion for street food and the novels of Stephen King? He threw away the remains of his chicken roti, sick at heart…     

To be continued….