Arsonist sought after mystery Wassail blaze
Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has appealed for witnesses after fire broke out in a shed at Grange Farm during a Wassail ceremony hosted by Mr and Mrs Eddie Grundy.
‘At first we thought the Mothers’ Union, or their ringleader Mrs Shula Hebden-Lloyd, might have set the fire to protest at the pagan nature of the ritual,’ said PC Burns. ‘But this was rather extreme, even for them.
‘It seems in fact we may be dealing with a crime of passion. We understand Phoebe Aldridge, the Wassail Queen, jilted her boyfriend Alex minutes before she was hoisted into an apple tree to tie a piece of cider-soaked toast to the branches. (Are you sure? Sounds ridiculous. Ed).
‘We would like to appeal for witnesses who heard a young man running from the scene yelling “I am a firestarter, twisted firestarter,” to come forward as soon as possible.’
• In other crime news, PC Burns has apologised to Eddie and Edward Grundy for arresting them for the theft of Reggie and Ronnie, the pigs dubbed the ‘Diamond Weaners’ for their smash-and-grab raids in Ambridge gardens this week.
‘It now appears that far from stealing the pigs, the Grundy family helped track them down and alerted their owner Tom Archer, who has now recovered them,’ said PC Burns. ‘It was an easy mistake to make, as all pigs look much the same, but nonetheless I have referred myself to the IPCC (Independent Porkers Complaints Commission).’ Surely ‘Police’? Ed.
End of an era for Ron and Vera
Ambridge residents have expressed ‘complete shock’ at the news that Ron and Vera Medlar of Bank Farm are to sell their dairy herd. ‘We’d never even heard of Ron and Vera, when suddenly we find out they’ve been farming here for generations. And now they’re going out of business!’ said one.
‘It’s terrible,’ said another. ‘I only found out the Medlars existed when the vicar pointed out they weren’t at the Plough Sunday service. I was so upset, I nearly walked into Ed Grundy’s tractor. ‘
Fellow dairy farmer Ruth Archer said she was ‘gutted’ by the news. ‘Ron and Vera’s story shows just how easy it is to get it wrong,’ she said. ‘Luckily, thanks to our new business plan, the future for Brookfield is really exciting. Aren’t we clever?’
Coffee break with… Kirsty Miller
In the first of an occasional series profiling readers with interesting jobs, we talk to Kirsty Miller, manager of the spa at Grey Gables country house hotel.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely, making people feel good about themselves. For example, just the other day, a customer who’s having a baby came in for a pre-natal pamper day. She’s a friend, so I knew she wouldn’t mind when I told her she looked thin and pale – dreadful in fact. But she soon perked up after a foot soak and one of our legendary scalp massages! And she bought some extra product, which is great for my sales targets.
Do you go the extra mile for customers?
Oh yes – literally in some cases. Like my friend, who’s pregnant? I gave her a lift home, so she could spend longer in the spa; her husband was pestering her to leave early. And when we got there, he couldn’t get rid of me quick enough! Practically shut the door in my face. People are funny, aren’t they? Can I interest you in some of this Papaya and Pine Nut Scrub? It’s on special…’
Thanks Kirsty! Next week: Greville Hammer-Price, livestock auctioneer, who is handling the sale of the Brookfield Farm dairy herd.
The Trials of Charlie Thomas
The latest chapter of our winter fiction special, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater. Will it be farewell forever or happy ever after for our hero?
Charlie took a last look round his empty office. Since he’d handed all his files over to Justin Elliott’s liquidation squad, he had no more duties to perform. ‘Apart from saying goodbye to the love of my life’, he thought, then cursed his self-pity. Picking up the Borchester Echo, he slumped in his swivel chair and flicked through the usual drivel and tittle-tattle. (I like this bit, Lavinia. Keep it up. Ed)
Then a headline on the business page made him sit up straight. ‘Berrow needed a real man at the helm’ it read, above a picture of Rob Titchener, smirking evilly out at him. Charlie scanned the interview, his eyes widening in horror.
‘Cutting corners… poor leadership… no backbone… shoddy practices… moral vacuum’… In a few short paragraphs, Rob had trashed his entire career! He knew the man was bitter, but this was too much. He wondered what Rott & Weiler, Damara’s solicitors, would make of the libellous claims. But more importantly, what would Adam think? Would he agree that Charlie was a complete failure as a manager, a farmer… and a man?
Shaking with fury, he snatched up the giant badger-hair sporran, his leaving gift from the milking team, and flung it across the room. Would this torture ever end?
‘Charlie! Coo-ee!’ Startled, Charlie looked up from his turnip and quinoa soup. Damn! He was sure the Ambridge Tea Room would be empty; judging by the soup, it deserved to be. But here was Jennifer. Beaming, she swooped on him with a kiss. ‘Charlie, you’re having a leaving party at Home Farm – no arguments!’ she trilled. ‘Oh, Jennifer…’ Charlie was torn. A party could be Ambridge’s last chance to humiliate him- especially if Rob was there. He glanced at Helen, fussing over a cheese display in the shop. But deep inside, he couldn’t deny a growing thrill. Adam would be there; he couldn’t afford to let this opportunity slip. ‘Well, don’t go overboard…’ he smiled. ‘Oh, trust me Charlie, it will be the perfect little soirée!’ said Adam’s mother. ‘Helen – Helen dear, where are the vol au vent cases?’
Thoughtfully, Charlie returned to his congealing soup, but barely had chance to lift his battered vintage spoon before the Fairbrother boys bounced over.
‘Hey Chaz!’ said one of them – was it Toby or Rex? He was never sure. ‘You heard of this caveman diet? You know, grass-fed mammoths and all that? Niche market for us? Whaddyathink?’
Charlie glared at the grinning fool in front of him. Only a few short months ago, he’d been gently teasing Adam about grazing bison on the prairie, both of them hunched over the joystick of his drone. ‘I distrust faddishness,’ he said curtly, and stalked off to the till. ‘Well, he’s not much fun, is he?’ he heard Toby say to Rex, or vice versa. They were right. He would never have any fun, ever again…
Charlie downed his third glass of red wine and looked anxiously towards the door. ‘Adam… he did say he was coming?’ he asked Jennifer, accepting another smoked trout and pineapple crostini. ‘Yes, of course – look, here he is!’
The room seemed to empty as Adam’s lean frame filled the doorway – and Charlie’s heart. ‘Hullo everyone; sorry mum, Ian couldn’t make it!’ he said, cramming a devil-on-horseback into his mouth.
No Ian! And Rob had already cried off, claiming Helen was unwell. Charlie began to enjoy the party. Even Shula and Ruth seemed quite witty, thanks to Brian’s finest Shiraz. But still, he couldn’t wait for them to go, so he and Adam could be alone…
At last, Jennifer sent them into the cold, dark garden to find Sabrina Thwaite’s discarded stilettos. It was now or never. ‘Adam – just one more thing before I go…’ he faltered, his heart pounding. He grabbed Adam’s shoulders and kissed him hard on the mouth. ‘Charlie, no!’ Adam thrust him away. ‘I’m sorry. I love you and never want you to go. But I’m a coward!’
Charlie’s world collapsed. He’d gambled everything, every chance of happiness, on this one last throw of the dice. And he’d lost.
He turned back to the house, intent on drowning himself in Jennifer’s lethal hot toddies (Lilian’s recipe). But then he heard a guttural sigh. ‘Charlie… stay… don’t go…’ and all at once it was Adam seizing him in his strong arms, Adam kissing him, Adam… Adam…
To be continued…..