Sunday, 1 July 2018

A message to all our readers: The Ambridge Observer is taking a break! The reporters need to sharpen their pencils and save up for new notebooks. Our crime editor is going travelling with Freddie Pargetter, our social correspondent will be spending the summer in Adam Macy's polytunnel, and the Editor was hoping for a long weekend in Bruges, but may have to settle for a day trip to Aberystwyth. We will be back on Sunday September 9. Have a lovely summer everyone!

Elliott under pressure to keep promises

Pat Archer has secured an unlikely ally in her campaign to have more affordable houses built at Bridge Farm.
Brian and Jennifer Aldridge have said they will ‘man the barricades’ to ensure that Justin Elliott builds more properties for low-income families on the new development.
News emerged this week that plans for the site have been scaled down, with developer Justin Elliott citing rising building costs.
‘He will not get away with this!’ said Pat Archer, who sold the building land to Mr Elliott to fund an artisan cheese-making centre for her children. ‘I need those affordable houses to salve my conscience – um, I mean, to provide forever homes for lovely little families like Ed and Emma Grundy, bless them.’
‘Pat and I don’t always see eye to eye,’ said Mr Aldridge, ‘but on this one we’re right behind her. Between you and me, Jennifer and I might find ourselves in need of one of these low-income property thingies, if our daughter Kate carries out her threat to make us sell Home Farm to pay for her wretched holistic retreat.
‘Jennifer says she’s sure she’ll be able to downsize, as long as there is room for the wine fridge, her boiling-water tap and all three dinner services. So brave.’

‘Fete worse than death’ for the vet?

Lynda Snell has praised local vet Alistair Lloyd for stepping in as a last-minute attraction for the Ambridge fete.
‘We nearly had a disaster when the Whack-a-Mole that Robert found at Felpersham tip turned out to be riddled with woodworm. So I was delighted when Alistair came forward,’ said Mrs Snell.
‘In ‘Whack-a-Vet, Alistair will stand in a stocks-like arrangement, and customers can choose one of two foam rubber mallets to whack him with. The ‘Anisha’ knocks his veterinary partnership on the head and flounces off to a fancy new job in Newmarket, and the ‘Shula’ knocks the stuffing out of him in the divorce courts.
‘It’s a pound a go, or £3 if you want to whack him with both at once, which Alistair, bless him, says he’s used to by now.
‘It’s wonderfully sporting of Alistair, especially as he’s been sounding a teeny bit grumpy lately,’ said Mrs Snell.

Lawyers celebrate bulge in briefs (are you sure? Ed)

Borsetshire Lawyers Group (BLaG) is planning a luxury trip to Glorious Goodwood later this month to celebrate a recent boom in business.
‘Several local firms have landed big cases lately and we think we deserve to let our hair down,’ said BlaG spokesperson Bill Moore-Offen.
‘Our members are currently handling a tricky family law claim, in which a widower is trying to gain custody of his two step-children from their biological father, and a divorce case that threatens to get messy as the two parties share business premises as well as a home.
‘We’re also expecting to take on a business partnership break-up (for the same client, poor sod). And just this week, we’ve been advising a holistic entrepreneur who wants to claim her rights in a family partnership and is threatening to sue her parents for it!’
 ‘Obviously, handling all this human misery with tact and discretion is very stressful, but luckily the big bucks we’re making out of it all mean we can afford to unwind in style,’ said Mr Moore-Offen.
‘So it’s chauffeur-driven limos, champagne on tap and five-star accommodation all round for a week. Glorious Goodwood here we come!’

Archers rubbish tip claim

Environmental health officers were diverted from the clean-up at Low Mead this week to investigate a ‘toxic tip’ at Brookfield.
Local residents reported lorry-loads of scrap machinery being dumped in David Archer’s yard (see picture).
Officials traced the source of the tip to Josh Archer, who said he had bought the machinery at a farm dispersal sale in Loxley Barrett and it just needed a ‘lick of paint and squirt of WD40’ to turn it into top-quality kit. 
‘I’m planning to sell it on as fast as possible, but our vet, Alistair Lloyd, gave me another idea,’ said Mr Archer.  ‘He says the huge pile of twisted, smouldering wreckage reminds him of his life. A bit dark, but I’m sure Borsetshire Open Studios would be interested in it as an installation piece and maybe I can flog it off to a gallery. Much better profit margins.’

New series: Mystic Olwen predicts

She warned that Justin Elliott wouldn’t build enough affordable homes, and ‘cursed’ Helen Archer so she didn’t win a Food & Farming Award. Now Mystic Olwen, everyone’s favourite homeless psychic, gives the Ambridge Observer her top three predictions for July:

• Susan Carter will regret offering money to her children to help them buy properties. Neil may be feeding from the hand of the Great Satan, Justin Elliott, just now, but mark my words, he will snatch it all back. The entire Carter family will end up living in pig arks and eating acorns. That’s the way the system works.

• Lilian Bellamy’s dog Ruby will win the Pets Party Pieces talent competition at the fete. That animal is, literally, a running dog of imperialist capitalism, and they always win. But Peggy Woolley’s Hilda Ogden will come a close second as fat cats always do well too.

• England will win the World Cup. England will not win the World Cup. (Subs, can you tweak this before press, darlings, depending on what happens?)

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Ruth celebrates, Toby parties and Kate bounces back

New treatments turn up the heat

Kate Madikane, owner of the troubled Spiritual Home holistic retreat, has launched three new treatments in a bid to woo back customers who have been put off by the toxic spill clean-up at Low Mead. 'My trip to the USA showed me that today's spa customer is looking for something more than a bland facial or boring old Reiki session,' she said. Ms Madikane describes her new treatments for us: 
• Anger Therapy. 'This is a type of hot stone massage, where I heat the stones so they’re just a bit too hot. Then I turn the whale music up loud and give the client a real pummelling while ranting on about my problems and blaming everyone but myself.'
• Truth Bomb. 'Secrets are toxic – I should know! So for this treatment, the client has to blurt out the most inconvenient truth they can think of to someone. In my case, I told Pip Archer that I'd slept with her baby-father at her mother's birthday party. So liberating!' 
• Bonk and Bounce. 'This one is really fun. All you need is champagne, a bouncy castle and a random to have a meaningless fling with – in my case, I chose Toby Fairbrother as you can't get more meaningless than him. Just one tip ladies – take your stilettos off or the whole experience might be a bit deflating!'
‘These treatments are so new and exciting, I don't know what they will do for clients,' said Ms Madikane. 'But they're working wonders for me.’

Onwards and upwards at Bridge Farm 

Helen Archer says she is 'disappointed, but inspired' by failing to win a prize at this year's Food & Farming Awards, run by The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4. 'I'm not bitter – unlike Tom's kefir (sorry - joke!!)', she said. 'I still have faith in my cheeses, and in fact, failing to win this award has given me the confidence to tell Tom exactly how he should run his business, and interfere in his dissertation for the Nuffield scholarship. So it's all good.
'Meanwhile, I am training my grandma Peggy's cat, Hilda Ogden, to be an artisan cheese-maker, so she can enter the Pets' Party Pieces contest at the fete. This is the kind of quirky marketing stunt that will really help our brands break through.'

From the vicar's fireside 

The Revd. Alan Franks writes:

I'd like to start by welcoming a new family to Ambridge. Esther Pickle, her mum Ina, dad Branston and brother Dill have just moved in to Grange Spinney. Esther is a keen bellringer and has already joined our happy team at St Stephen's. She is an independent young woman with a personal style that I believe is called 'Goth', and her favourite bands include The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Sisters of Mercy, which sounds very appropriate. Welcome, Pickle family!
Taking of bellringing, I'm also delighted that PC Harrison Burns has also agreed to join our tower as we prepare for the nationwide 'Ringing Remembers' event on Armistice Day. PC Burns has promised to take his helmet off, so to speak, while ringing so we needn't worry that anything we say will be used in evidence! Although it's Neil Carter who keeps us in line, and he says Harrison has a lot to learn. Let's say his comments added a fair few pounds to the swear box!
And of course, my lovely wife Usha is returning to the team, which is just as well as Shula Hebden Lloyd, such a stalwart, is so busy she always has a diary clash when Usha is ringing. Usha says her ringing is rusty, but as I often say to her when we turn in for the night: Come on old girl, it's just like riding a bike. Good luck to all our ringers! 

Poem of the Week

Thank you to Bert Fry, Borsetshire Laureate, for allowing us to publish the poem he was commissioned to write for Ruth Archer’s glittering 50th birthday party at Home Farm.

When Ruth first appeared from a dairy afar,
Shining on Ambridge like a radiant star,
She was a farming student, just nineteen,
And not the smartest we’d ever seen.

Her tractor driving test she failed,
Ruined a day’s milk yield – how Phil wailed!
And she so upset poor Mr Wendover,
Phil begged me to come in and take over!

Despite all this, from the very start
Between her and David there was a spark.
At Nightingale Farm they pledged their troth
And ever since, love has blessed them both.

Jill Archer planned Ruth’s wedding day,
But the bride wanted things her way!
A woman vicar, no bridesmaids at all,
And a knees-up in the village hall.

But Ruth looked stunning as a bride,
And David Archer fair burst with pride.
And the famous story still gets told
Of Ruth’s dad’s speech about toilet rolls.

And then in February 1993,
They welcomed Pip to their family.
To be followed by Josh and Ben, who, they say,
Was conceived on top of a stack of hay!

Of course, in all the happy years,
There have been troubles, pain and tears.
But Ruth’s bright spirit keeps shining through,
And she’s always got a kind word for you.

So raise your glasses, say three cheers,
For the lady celebrating 50 years.
A much-loved member of the Archer clan –
And soon about to be a Gran!

(Unfortunately, for space reasons, we have had to cut the next 43 verses.
But thank you Bert!)

Pet of the Week

Name: Fluffy
Owner: Nathan Booth
Likes: Eating crickets
Dislikes: Playing cricket
Do say: ‘Yes Nathan, I’m sure he would be saying Gottle of Geer if his mouth wasn’t full of crickets’.
Don’t say: ‘A bearded dragon ventriloquist act? I didn’t know Peggy Woolley and Christine Barford were entering the Pets’ Party Pieces competition!’

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Fete shocker, Kate flounces and Freddie is free (for now)

Ambridge matriarch in Fete shocker

Ambridge was shocked to the core this week when a senior village figure appeared to undermine one of the community’s most cherished institutions.
Jill Archer, 87, of Brookfield told fellow committee members she would be late to a meeting ‘because there are some things in life that are more important than the Ambridge Fete.’
‘We were all rendered speechless,’ said Lynda Snell. ‘I can’t imagine how anyone would say such a thing. Especially when Fallon Rogers has come up with an inspired idea to make a Pets’ Talent Show the centrepiece of the Fete. Could there be anything more Ambridge?’
Contacted by the Ambridge Observer, Mrs Archer was unrepentant. ‘I needed to spend time with my daughter Shula,’ she said. ‘ Everyone knows I am the best mother in Ambridge and I could not have my youngest, Elizabeth, showing me up by being loving and tolerant about my granddaughter’s sexuality. Whatever that may mean.
‘I’ve been working hard all week to undermine my daughter-in-law Ruth in the grandmother department, and here was Shula telling family members that I had failed her. Now, she may have ditched her sacred marriage vows for a silly mid-life whim but I will support her come what may because that is what mums do, Elizabeth says. Would you like some carrot cake?’

Turbulence at Spiritual Home

The future of  Spiritual Home, Ambridge’s foremost holistic retreat and spa, hung in the balance this week as its owner Kate Madikane flounced off to sulk on the Kent coast (shurely, took some time out to consider her business options? Ed.)
‘Kate has returned home now, which is such a relief. We haven’t been so worried since she went to Glastonbury and came back with a baby,’ said her mother, Jennifer Aldridge of Home Farm. 
‘Of course, that’s not very likely this time as Kate is… well, let’s just say her peak fertility years are behind her. Unlike my son Adam of course. His little swimmers are in absolutely top form, did you know? Anyway… I’m sure Kate will calm down soon. She knows she’d struggle without me to make her blackberry tea and serve her beetroot hummus just the way she likes it!’
Brian Aldridge, who recently announced shock plans to sell off a parcel of land that adjoins Spiritual Home, said he and Ms Madikane had had a ‘difference of opinion’. ‘Kate believes that having tractors rumble past Spiritual Home all day will ruin her business, and I believe that she is a spoiled, over-indulged brat who hasn’t bothered to read the small print on the Home Farm partnership document,’ he said.
The Ambridge Observer reached out to Ms Madikane for comment, but unfortunately the statement she released was not appropriate for a family newspaper.

All bets off on Pip’s baby date

Bookmakers have suspended betting on the birth date of Pip Archer’s baby, after punters piled into Sunday June 17. ‘We had some money come in for Saturday June 16, which is her mum Ruth’s 50th birthday,’ said Lou Sittall of Borchester Turf Accountants. ‘But Sunday is not only the day of Ruth’s birthday party, but Fathers' Day. Studying the form, we reckon that Archer babies often arrive to cause maximum disruption and inconvenience. So we reckon a touching birth scene in the marquee at Home Farm is a no-brainer.’
Before the book was closed, decent odds were available on Tuesday June 19 (Fallon Rogers’s birthday) and Friday June 22 (Adam Macy and Chris Carter’s birthday).  ‘We even had a few brave souls who reckoned Pip could hold out until the Ambridge Fete,’ said Mr Sittall.  ‘But you could get 100-1 on that as Lynda Snell would never stand for it.’
Bets are still being taken on the baby's name. 'On the basis that parents often take inspiration from their surroundings, our favourite is Floral Pedestal Archer if it's a girl, or Jazz Quintet Archer for a boy,' said Mr Sittall. 

From the message boards

As Ambridge’s youngsters celebrate the end of their exams, we drop in on the AmTeens forum to see what’s got the online community buzzing:

• Hey guys!!!! No more exams EVA!!!! Who’s gonna hang at the Black Dragon for some cocktails and to watch me burn my pencil case? DJFreddEE

• Why Freddie boy, are you gonna smoke it? You and me got unfinished business, remember? I’m a couple of men down in my operation and I need you to shift some supplies, get me? ChemicalEllis

• Go away Ellis. I’m picking fruit at Home Farm all summer and then I’m off to South Africa. And anyway, you’ll get what’s coming to you. DJFreddieEE

• Sure, Freddie boy. What you gonna do, get your big butch sister Lily to rough me up? We all know about her and that Meredith girl, whoever she is. ChemicalEllis

• Guys, guys, take it outside, will you? You need to check out this week’s Borchester Echo, featuring yours truly as Bachelor of the Month! TractorBoyJosh

• Wow, cool! Bet you’ll get some hot dates out of that! DJFreddEE

• Too right, Fred. I’ve got three sales appointments this week already. And a sniff of a nearly-new baler in Penny Hassett. Anyone on here interested? TractorBoyJosh

 • Shut UP, Josh! Everyone.

Pet of the Week (not a pet, a working animal. This is a farming paper, you know. Ed.)

Name: Peppa Pig (yes, it’s stupid, but we can’t change it because of Poppy, bless the poor little mite)
Owner: Ed Grundy, Grange Farm
Likes: eating, pushing small girls into puddles
Dislikes: being prodded by judges at Borchester Show
Do say: ‘Ain’t he handsome? Think how much more he’ll be worth when he’s bigger!’

Don’t say: ‘You turned down £4,000 for him? Are you mad? With the luck of the Grundys, do you really think he’ll make it to his first birthday?’

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Kate sees red, Lily's in hot water and Shula cooks up trouble

US intervention steps up threat of trade war

Kate Madikane, owner of holistic retreat Spiritual Home, has walked out of summit talks designed to ease financial woes at Home Farm.
‘Kate says her father Brian Aldridge is weak and dishonest, and never told her he was selling the field surrounding Spiritual Home,’ says an insider.
‘If she’d got the email while she was away in Arizona, she would have come straight back to stop it. But she was on a goat yoga retreat and totally off grid.’
‘Kate has warned Brian there will be war over the sale, which would see tractors to-ing and fro-ing just yards from her yurts every day,’ said our source. ‘She means business since her US research trip. She went on a haircut healing course and had her hair permed into a huge blonde power quiff. It’s truly scary. Brian had better watch out.’

 Nice work if you can get it

The summer’s hottest reality TV show has inspired a local farmer to step up his recruitment drive for seasonal workers.
Home Farm’s strawberry picking operation has been renamed ‘The Polytunnels of Love Island’. Workers will compete to go on glamorous dates, such as carvery night at the Torn Scrotum in Felpersham.
‘My sister Kate gave me the idea,’ said Adam Macy. ‘She said we need to attract young, energetic workers and to get the place buzzing with hormones. So what better way than to inject some sizzling babes, booze and bantz into the mix?’
Mr Macy said new recruits would be issued with sparkly swimwear, shades and vouchers for cocktails, which they will enjoy on their breaks by the Home Farm swimming pool.
‘Each week the pickers will be coupled up, and we’ll have a ‘Fruitiest Guy’ and ‘Sweetest Girl’ contest,’ said Mr Macy. ‘It’s going to be hot, hot, hot in the Polytunnels of Love Island!’

The Trials of Lily Pargetter

In the latest chapter of our sensational summer saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine plays a dangerous game to experience the ecstasies of love…

‘Ach, Liebling! Bei mir bist du so … sexy!’ Lily purred in delight and pressed the phone closer to her ear. ‘Revising with books is so bourgeois, darling,’ Russ had told her. ‘You and I speak the language of love!’
‘Ich auch!’ she said. ‘Sorry doll – you got a cold?’ Russ quipped. He was so funny. They’d even devised a secret code: if they were on the phone and Russ said ‘Hier kommt meine Frau’, it meant it wasn’t safe to talk. So clever of him!
Reluctantly ending the call, Lily went into the kitchen.
‘So Lily – how is Meredith? You’ve been with her nearly all weekend!’ her mother asked, a little too brightly.
‘Yeah Lily, how is… Meredith?’ Freddie asked, making quote marks with his fingers behind their mum’s back. ‘Shut UP!’ Lily hissed at him. ‘Oh, you know Meredith. Still got her verruca. She needs a lot of support. What’s for lunch?’
‘There’s fresh ham,’ Elizabeth said, expertly slicing a bloomer.
‘Oh no, sorry mum – Lily prefers an old ham, don’t you sis?’ said Freddie with a huge wink.
‘What on earth do you mean, Freddie?’ her mother turned a quizzical eye on them. Then her phone buzzed and she frowned. ‘Oh damn, it’s the photocopier sales convention organiser again. I’ll have to take this, darlings.’
‘Ha ha – saved by the bell! But mum’s on to you, Lily,’ Freddie crowed. ‘You’d better get your story straight if you want to carry on seeing sleazy old Russ...’
Lily stabbed viciously at a slice of ham, wishing it were her hideous brother…How dare he try to spoil the rare, precious love she had found with her deputy head teacher?


‘Well, you do look super-cool in your shades and summer dresses, dears!’ Aunty Christine waddled over the Green towards Lily and Elizabeth. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’
Lily breathed a sigh of relief. At least now Mum would stop dropping hints about her and Meredith, and how Clare Balding was one of her favourite TV presenters, and didn’t Lily think that Ruth Davidson was a talented politician?
‘Of course, Christine! We’re just enjoying a short break in the sun before Lily’s next exam,’ said Elizabeth. ‘She’s already turned down the chance to play cricket on Sunday to revise.’ Lily shivered inwardly with delight. On Sunday, she wouldn’t be playing cricket or revising with the imaginary  Meredith. She and Russ would be in their own little world in the car park of that quiet pub on the bypass… Christine’s quavering voice broke into her reverie.
‘But you do have breaks, dear!’ she was saying. ‘Jim and I saw you, with a tall chap, at that art exhibition in Felpersham!’
Lily went cold. She forced herself to smile. ‘Oh no, not me, Aunty Chris. I was revising!’
Christine looked puzzled. ‘But I was sure… you were wearing that lovely scarlet jacket of yours. But I might have been mistaken. Harrison and Fallon think I’m going gaga, you know. Just because I can’t tell a flapjack from a gluten free cookie. They’re all stale anyway, since they stopped using Tupperware like normal people.’
‘Yes!’ Lily yelped. Her aunt gave her a hurt look. ‘I mean… No, of course you’re not gaga, Aunty  Christine. I just meant yes, you were mistaken. I was revising with my friend Meredith… wasn’t I mum?’
‘Lily’s right, Christine. She’s always at Meredith’s these days. It must have been someone else.’
Lily’s heart, which had been pounding in her chest, began to beat more calmly. But her mother was giving Lily a long, thoughtful look. Oh, how long would she and Russ have to keep up this painful deception, before they could declare their love to the whole world?

To be continued….

Recipe of the week

Thank to Shula Hebden-Lloyd of The Stables for sending in her version of this weekday family favourite:

Spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread

Serves two (will freeze. In fact, quite likely to)

8oz minced words
Two strong onions (for crying)
Tin of you say tomatoes, I say tom-ay-toes, let’s call the whole thing off
1 cup stock phrases
Pinch of bitter herbs
Slices of stale regret
Butter (no parsnips)
Crushed garlic hopes. Sorry, cloves.

Serve with a bottle of Merlot while pretending to laugh at a video of goat yoga. Then have a row and slam the door on your way out.