Sunday, 21 May 2017

Justin compromises, Lily advises and Brian gets his gun – a thrilling week in Ambridge

A win at Darrington – but no girls allowed

Ambridge cricket club secured a precious win against Darrington on Sunday – but only after captain Harrison Burns played an all-male side.
‘It was a three-line whip for the boys, so how could I say no?’ said Adam Macy. ‘You need to be on top of your game against Darrington. And thanks to a gutsy last stand by Chris Carter and Barry Simmons, we ran out very close winners.’
Captain Burns was late for the match, as he was called to a road traffic accident in Edgeley. ‘Rex Fairbrother stood in very well until I arrived,’ he said. ‘But I couldn’t risk having any women in the team this time, certainly not Molly Button. Darrington are terrible sledgers and I wouldn’t trust Molly to contain herself at the crease. If she carried on like she does at nets, poor Bert Fry would walk off the pitch and we do need an umpire.’
Captain Burns said he has yet to pick his team for the next match but is not regretting his controversial decision to allow women to play. ‘Although if Lily Pargetter keeps badgering me about hot showers and scented candles in the pavilion I might have a rethink,’ he said.

Look out! Speedwatch is about

Motorists driving through Ambridge have been warned to stick to speed limits or face a fine, as a new Speedwatch scheme is launched in the village this week.
A group of volunteers has completed their training and will be stationed at the roadside on a rota basis. Two volunteers will be on duty, one to monitor the traffic and the other to record information about offenders. ‘It’s all rather fun,’ said Jim Lloyd. ‘I’ve already spotted a whitethroat and Robert saw a sparrowhawk. And sometimes, a car goes past.’
‘This is the best job I’ve ever had,’ said Mrs Susan Carter. ‘You won’t believe who we saw in Sabrina Thwaite’s car. Well, it wasn’t Richard, that’s for sure. I’ve no idea how fast they were going, mind. Neil was taken short behind a bush with his  speed gun.’
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) said it was too soon to tell how effective the scheme would be. ‘The volunteers were keen, but easily distracted,’ he said. ‘And I had to ask Kate Madikane not to advertise her ear-candling workshops by waving a placard at passing cars. But I would hope the sight of Brian Aldridge in a high-vis tabard would make more than one speed merchant think twice.’  

Bert’s top of the pots

Congratulations to Bert Horrobin of Ambridge, the winner of our latest ‘Antique of the Week’ competition. Mr Horrobin correctly valued this delightful Oriental ceramic duck (pictured) at £4.95.
‘Soon as I saw it I knew it were just like that boxed lot I picked up at Borchester Mop,’ he said. ‘Paid £5 for a dozen of ’em, so add your retail mark-up and I reckon £4.95 apiece is about right.’
However, the competition rolls over until next week as Mr Horrobin does not wish to claim his prize. ‘I wouldn’t have that tat in the ’ouse,’ he said. ‘Sold ’em on to Eddie Grundy as soon as I could. You could try that Miranda Elliott though; seems she paid him handsomely for a pair. Thought they were Ming. More money than sense, some people!’

NEW SERIES: Lily’s lore

She’s wise beyond her years, and she’s all ears! Lily Pargetter is a great listener – and she’s here to advise on your romantic problems.

Dear Lily,
Will I ever find the –

Dear Pip,
Don’t say another word! Your face tells me all I need to know. You’re worried that your relationships with sensible boys always go wrong and you fall for the bad boys who let you down and make you unhappy. It was exactly the same with Miss Lemming, our sociology teacher. All the staff confide in me, you know. Anyway, I told her what I’ll tell you – you will find The One, just as soon as you learn to be a good listener, like me. You’ll see!

Dear Lily,
How am I going to get over –

Dear Toby,
Yes, we all know Pip’s dumped you. But it’s mainly your own fault, isn’t it? You need some tough love. Take Rex’s advice and get on with making your gin. It’s good to keep busy and you might make some cash – and trust me, you’ll never impress another girl if you’re broke. Take pride in what you’re good at. That’s what I said to Mr Rowney in the art department – and look at him now. His gouaches are selling like hot cakes and he’s dating the gallery owner!

Dear Lily,
My colleague Maurice the butcher says –

Dear Tom,
Oh, tell me about it! He says you’re doomed to be a loser in love like him, doesn’t he? Just because you never really got over Brenda and then ruined Kirsty’s life twice? Well, who are you going to listen to? A man whose idea of a good time is making the Eiffel Tower out of matchsticks, or the girl who was voted ‘Most likely to marry a royal’ in the Year 12 poll? Just wait until your fermented foods business is up and running. Think of all those health-conscious ladies who’ll love you for tidying up their gut flora!

Ask Auntie Satya will be back next week. Thank goodness for that. Ed.

A lawyer writes….

Miles Moore-Costlea, family law partner at Fleesome & Leggett in Felpersham,
explains how ‘divorce without tears’ is possible – with the right advice.

The end of a marriage is always a difficult time, but heartache – and cost – can be kept in check if both parties are willing to compromise. It is always best if clients can agree as much as possible between themselves before turning to the law. (I am of course obliged to say that; we much prefer it if couples end up fighting over every ashtray in court).
For example, my client – let us call him ‘J’ – is an extremely wealthy businessman who is divorcing his wife – let us call her ‘M’. I was surprised when ‘J’ told me the outcome of a discussion he and ‘M’ had had about dividing their assets. ‘M’ is keeping the ski lodge in Courchevel and the country house in Aldeburgh, and ‘J’ is making over to her a property business in Scotland, and his race horse. For his part, ‘J’ is retaining his principal business and two Arab horses of which his new partner – let us call her ‘L’ – is particularly fond.
All they have left to discuss is their London properties, including the wine cellar  and their art collection. Although I understand ‘M’ has laid claim to two rare, Ming dynasty ceramic ‘duck pots’ that she acquired in Borsetshire.
I was delighted of course that there was so little acrimony involved. (Actually I was livid as I’ve not reached my fees target this year and at this rate there’ll be no Caribbean winter break for Mrs Moore-Costlea.)
Still, as we often say in law, it’s not over until the fat lady – let us call her ‘M’ – sings. I would be astonished (and extremely disappointed) if ‘J’ has no more need of my services before his decree absolute arrives.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

An accident, a break-up and an uneaten pizza: a week of awkward conversations in Ambridge

Shop reveals a new way to say it

The Ambridge village shop is launching a new range of greetings cards that it claims is more relevant to customers’ “complex modern lives”.
‘Sometimes you need a special card for those occasions when you can’t quite find the words,’ said retail manager Susan Carter.
‘For example, I’m expecting a run on this ‘Hooray! Free at Last!’ card, now that Helen Archer’s decree absolute has come through. I did consider stocking: ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than live with the psycho the rest of your life’, but decided against it on taste grounds.
‘And of course there’s this one: ‘Congratulations on your divorce and your engagement!’ (pictured).
Perfect for Justin Elliott and Lilian, especially for well-wishers who like to economise.’
‘And this one will do well: ‘I’m really so terribly, awfully, dreadfully sorry’. You can personalise it, so for instance you can add ‘Mum and Dad’ if you’re Pip Archer, or ‘Peggy’ if you’re Brian Aldridge. Actually, I’m hoping Brian will place a bulk order because he’s got so many people to apologise to after running over Peggy’s cat.’
Mrs Carter said she monitors village events carefully in order to choose just the right cards for her customers to express their sentiments to each other.
‘After Friday night, I think I’ll order a few ‘Sorry the relationship everyone thought was the worst decision of your life has ended’ for Pip’s friends and family,’ she said. ‘And I suppose someone might want to send a ‘Bad luck old chap, plenty more fish in the sea,’ card to Toby Fairbrother, but frankly I doubt it.’

Tech firm offers exciting overview

Local tech start-up Price Baumann is offering local farmers a free aerial survey of their crops in order to demonstrate how versatile its drone technology can be. ‘People think it’s only for barley barons like my father Brian, who take days to cross their fields in a tractor, but actually even old-fashioned meadow-lovers like my brother Adam can benefit too,’ said sales executive (Midlands and West region) Alice Carter.
‘The thing is, if you’ve got cattle grazing a species-rich pasture, the grazing will change the composition of the pasture over time and that will affect the performance of the cattle,’ she said. ‘With a drone, you can whizz up and see what’s going on, in time to sow some more of those seed thingies, or whatever it is you do.’
Mrs Carter said she hoped to offer the free service to Eddie Grundy of Grange Farm, to investigate his Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). ‘Jill Archer told me it’s a terrible muddy mess, when Lower Loxley’s meadow, which is very similar, is looking lovely,’ she said. ‘I’m sure a drone camera could spot what’s going on straightaway.’
Contacted by the Ambridge Observer, Mr Grundy said he was ‘not interested’ in Price Baumann’s offer. ‘A drone won’t find anything wrong with my SSSI, not even the pigs that were never on it,’ he said. ‘All it needs is a packet of mixed annuals and a squirt of Miracle Gro. Alice Carter can mind her own business and I’ll get my Will to shoot down any UFO that invades our air space.’

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

Some of your readers may already know that Mrs Peggy Woolley’s cat Bill was very sadly run over and killed by a car in Ambridge this week. Poor Bill had been struggling with food issues and was unfortunately too portly to evade the speeding vehicle.
Naturally the thoughts of the whole village are with Mrs Woolley and her house-mate Christine Barford, who was so upset she refused to eat and had to be talked down from her room by Jill Archer with a plate of scones.
But I am pleased to report that some good is set to come out of their tragic loss.
Overcome with sympathy – he told me he could not imagine how awful the driver of the car would be feeling – Brian Aldridge, his wife Jennifer, daughter Kate and sister-in-law Lilian have all volunteered to join the Speedwatch team that will monitor the appalling level of dangerous driving that is currently afflicting the village. I hope that many more people will follow their example and join us. Only when every single Ambridge resident is out on the streets with hi-vis gilet, speed gun and clipboard will we end this scourge! And poor Bill will not have died in vain.

Yours faithfully,

Lynda Snell, Ambridge Hall. (Note to subs: do not head this letter ‘Dead cat bounce’. Ed)

The Trials of… Anisha Jayakody

In the first chapter of our NEW romantic summer saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine realises that love is not such an easy game to play… 

‘So, Anisha! How was your week?’ Rex’s warm brown eyes twinkled at her as he carefully completed his pre-run stretches. She couldn’t help but notice his well-muscled shape under the faded rugby club tracksuit.
‘Oh, you know – up and down,’ she grinned. ‘Dead cat on Tuesday – shame, but I’d told Mrs Woolley his fat would kill him one way or another. But I had a really interesting chat with Matt Crawford about race horses yesterday. He reckons his contact Latif Hussein, who’s a big owner, might be looking for a new vet.’
‘Wow! I’m impressed!’ Rex re-tied his trainers in a neat double knot. ‘But isn’t that a bit… ambitious?’
‘Ach, jings, man, ye sound like Alistair! Ambition’s my middle name, ye ken!’ Anisha was hopping up and down on the spot, keen to be away. ‘Come on Rex, loser buys the first round!’   

Anisha stretched like a cat (obviously a much slimmer one than Bill) on Bert’s comfy old sofa. ‘Down time, Anisha. Give that fierce ambition a night off!’ she told herself. Rex bounded in from the kitchen carrying plates, cutlery and paper towels. ‘Pizza’s on its way, film’s ready – enjoy!’ he said, sitting down close to her on the sofa. ‘And we’ve got the place to ourselves. Toby and Pip will be in the pub for hours…’ He leaned towards her, and she took in his warm scent of aftershave and liniment. ‘Oh, Rex, I….’
Crash! The front door was kicked open and Toby burst in. ‘OK bro, you win. She dumped me!’ he yelled. ‘The sensible, reasonable one gets his way as usual. Pip’s all yours matey!’
Anisha looked on, horrified, as the brothers squared up to each other. ‘What’s up, Rex?’ she asked. ‘Surely you can’t prefer that feckless farm girl, with very unsound views on Brexit, to a feisty, ambitious Glaswegian like me?’ Rex turned towards her, and there was an awful moment of silence as she saw the truth in his eyes…


‘Well actually Anisha, Pip is a jolly fine farmer!’ Rex’s nostrils flared in indignation, like an angry Irish cob. Two high spots of colour appeared on his cheekbones.  ‘And we did almost have a thing once, except first she was soppy about Matthew and then she snogged Akash at Alice’s party and then she got off with Toby. But honestly, I’ve forgotten all about that. I can’t even remember exactly what shade of blue her eyes are now – I’ll have to check the picture by the side of my bed…. Wait, Anisha! Where are you going? What about the pizza?’
But Anisha had grabbed her jacket and rushed out, pushing past Toby, who was glugging Bert’s tonic wine straight from the bottle.
In the chilly dark air outside, realisation struck her like a blow. What a fool she’d been! To think she’d nearly fallen for a failure like Rex – a taxi driver, for God’s sake! – who’d rather be with dull old Pip than a bright, feisty, independent, high-flying Glaswegian with a gift for equine enucleation! ‘Ach! Ah cannae be arsed wi yon bawbag! Not wi’ tuna on his pizza an’ all,’ she said aloud as she marched back to Blossom Hill Cottage. Thrusting her hands in her pockets, she found Matt Crawford’s business card. Now there was a man blazing with ambition, like her! Would he still be up at this hour, she wondered…    
To be continued….

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Cricket controversy, gambling scams and desperate measures: a packed week in Ambridge

‘Quietest Bank Holiday ever’ reported in Ambridge

An appearance by Edgeley Morris Men on the village green was the highlight of a Bank Holiday weekend in which ‘absolutely nothing happened’, according to village sources.
‘Usually you can expect a bit of drama, like an arson attack on a henhouse or even the theft of some bunting,’ said Mrs Gemma Hawkins. ‘But this Bank Holiday there was nothing.
Someone left their copy of the Racing Post in the Bull, so we all wondered who that was for a minute. And Bridge Farm had a special offer on chocolate panettone. That was about it. I suppose it was quite restful though.’

Authorities probe Borsetshire ‘gambling ring’

Police are investigating an illegal betting ring that is thought to be operating throughout the county, according to Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit.
PC Harrison Burns told a packed press conference this week that he had been alerted by Felpersham Racecourse to their suspicions about ‘irregular betting patterns’ seen at Wednesday’s meeting.
‘There were two smartly dressed women putting on large, cash bets on the rails, on hopeless nags that came last each time,’ said PC Burns. ‘But they appeared to be known to a high-rolling gambler, who approached them before each race, using the codename ‘Pusscat’. Although the women were quite hostile to him, we think this was an elaborate diversion from a massive race-fixing operation organised from the Owners & Trainers bar.’
PC Burns also said he hadn’t ruled out a connection to a ‘cribbage scam’ that came to light in Ambridge this week.
‘I came across an elderly man wandering in the lanes, muttering ‘One for his nob’ to himself,’ he said. ‘It transpired that Joe Grundy, 95, had apparently been traumatised by a game of cribbage with Neville Booth, in which Mr Booth had, allegedly, cheated openly and frequently. Later that week, however, Mr Grundy was observed buying drinks for everyone in The Bull, on the flimsy pretext that his pony Bartleby had found a friend.
‘All this is so out of character that I can only suspect some connection to the ‘Felpersham ring.’
PC Burns said the repercussions of the case could be quite wide. ‘We already have a lead to Costa Rica,’ he said. ‘At this rate, I might be able to wangle a trip to Vegas. Fallon would love that.’

Burns makes bold move for Edgeley clash

Ambridge cricket captain Harrison Burns is set to pick three women for the tricky match against Edgeley on Sunday.
Jolene Archer, Lily Pargetter and Anisha Jayakody will appear for Ambridge, while Burns has dropped veterans Adam Macy and Will Grundy, in a move that is bound to revive the row about allowing women to play for the village team.
‘The fact is, Adam and Will didn’t turn up for nets, so not being selected will send a message about commitment,’ said Burns. ‘And Lily needs cheering up after failing her driving theory test, so it will be nice for her to have an afternoon out.’
Will Grundy said he was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’, by the move. ‘Women are taking over if you ask me,’ he said. ‘This week I had my own wife telling me that women should be allowed to go out to work instead of staying in to cook my food and look after my children. What is the world coming to?’    

Poetry Corner

Our Poem of the Week comes from Bert Fry, taking his usual wry, spry look at life in Ambridge. Thank you Bert!

A house guest

The Good Book says that we all should
Do as our own dear Saviour would
and try, by some kind word or deed
To help our neighbours when in need.

So when of Brookfield’s woes I did hear,
Money trouble so severe
That it might push them to the edge,
I gave Ruth some of my spare veg.

But the Good Lord, who knows best,
Has put me to a bigger test.
He asks that I should do no other
Than give a home to Toby Fairbrother.

He said we’d have a lot of laughs,
Just like we did in days gone past.
I don’t remember any ‘bantz’
But can’t forget his unwashed pants.

I said I’d help as times are tough,
So Toby’s moving in his stuff,
But I’m not sure how it will go,
With three men in a bungalow.


For sale

Charm bracelet. Quite short of charms, actually. Unwanted gift. Good price for a quick sale.
Contact Pip Archer, Brookfield. (Discreetly please, because I want to pretend I lost it in the silage clamp.)

Holiday let – great value last-minute offer!

Rickyard Cottage, Brookfield. Enjoy a relaxing break in a charming cottage on a real, working farm! Wake up to the keening wail of farmer Ruth, as she despairs of paying the feed bill! Chuckle along with David Archer as he traps his thumb in the cattle crush after working a 14-hour day! Enjoy grandma Jill Archer’s home-baked flapjacks*, delivered to your door!  The cosy cottage sleeps two, in a comfortable bed, almost free of crumbs. Farmhouse kitchen fully stocked with Pot Noodles and featuring a traditional half-built gin still. £450 per week; £650 per week in high season. Prices negotiable though as we are really desperate. Apply: Pip Archer, Brookfield Farm, Ambridge.  *Unless your name is Fairbrother.  

Dawn Chorus Charity Walk, Sunday May 7 2017

To celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day, join Kirsty Miller and Helen Archer on a family-friendly walk through some of Ambridge’s loveliest landscapes. Meet on the village green, 5am. Donations to a local miscarriage charity welcomed. Please note: the walk’s route crosses the wildflower meadow at Grange Farm, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Eddie Grundy has asked us to point out that the muddy patch churned up by pigs is NOT the SSSI. The fenced-off area with a few flowers still left in it is the SSSI. Grange Farm pigs are aware of this and are not allowed to rummage in the SSSI as if were an all-you-can-eat buffet. Oh no. Thank you.