Sunday, 21 January 2018

Toxic shock for Jenny, public health crisis and kefir kicks on

Ambridge hit by health scare…


Officials claimed this week that Ambridge faces an epidemic that could have serious consequences for public wellbeing.
The number of reported cases of maturity in the village has shot up, stretching the authorities’ resources of credulity to the limits.
‘Normally in winter we’d expect to see a slight uptick in maturity, such as Alice going for Dry January, or Adam taking one of Brian’s decisions with good grace,’ said Dr Vita Minns of Public Health Borsetshire (PHB).
‘But we thought it might be serious this year when Tom Archer actually listened to Susan Carter’s marketing ideas instead of stomping off to sulk with the pigs. Then we heard that Toby Fairbrother had faced up to his responsibilities as a parent and had an adult conversation with David Archer. We mobilised resources, but even we were overwhelmed when Kate Madikane admitted she was a terrible mother and vowed to put her children first.’
PHB advises people not to panic, but to check on friends and family and report anyone who shows signs of unexpected maturity.
‘Exposure to people who have been vaccinated against maturity, such as Lilian Bellamy and Eddie Grundy, may confer herd immunity,’ said Dr Minns. ‘But if this outbreak spreads, there will be nothing at all to gossip about in Ambridge, which would be an unthinkable catastrophe.’

… as the Am is out of bounds


Residents were warned to stay away from the river Am this week as Environment Agency staff continued their investigation into the contamination incident that has killed hundreds of fish.
‘We were alerted by local resident Kirsty Miller, who was wild swimming in the river,’ said a spokesperson. ‘She seems to have had no ill effects, but we are keeping her in quarantine at Porton Down just in case. Whatever killed the fish is clearly very toxic. Until we have identified and cleared the source, we’re asking dog walkers, swimmers and anglers to stay away.’
The spokesperson added: ‘If anyone has poisoned the otters that have been spotted in the Am lately, we will hunt them down like a dog.’

Kefir kicks on as Archer readies relaunch


The Bridge Farm brand of kefir, which was withdrawn last week after disappointing sales, is set for a revival as owner Tom Archer prepares to unveil a rebrand.
‘As you know, I’ve been travelling the world on my Nuffield marketing scholarship,’ he said. ‘And I’ve learned that a truly disruptive insight can give you the potential to drive brand strategy and impact growth.
‘And this week I had my breakthrough. Susan Carter pointed out that kefir tastes absolutely rank! This gave us a whole new platform to build kefir as a remedy, rather than a drink.’
Mr Archer said the new-look product would be packaged in small bottles and sold at a premium price to reflect its healthy credentials. ‘Bert Fry came up with a great new strapline,’ he said. ‘“It tastes like poo but it’s good for you, and Bridge Farm kefir cures rashes too!” We’re also exploring openings in the detox enema market…’ (That’s more than enough. Ed.)

All round to Mrs Woolley's!


Following the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness this week, a member of Ambridge Women’s Institute has come up with a novel idea to help older people to socialise.
‘It’s called ‘Netflix and Chilblains,’ said Mrs Peggy Woolley, 93. ‘At least, I think that’s what my great-granddaughter Noluthando said. She showed me how to do it with my tablet and the TV. You can invite your friends round to watch any film you like! As long as I remember to select the AV input on my remote control. Otherwise you get stuck on the shopping channel and that makes my housemate Christine cry because she can’t afford anything since Matt Crawford stole all her money. Not that she likes me to mention it.’

Your week in the stars


What does fate have in store for readers this week? Our resident astrologer Janet Planet has the answers…

Cancer

Prospective parents will be anxious for the Moon to be in the fifth house of Venus or Jupiter, as these alignments are propitious for healthy pregnancy. (Where does she get this tosh? Ed.) But be patient! Expect your chosen mum-to-be to need a few more dinners of salmon tikka, okra and romantic anguish before she agrees to have your baby.

Scorpio

The past catches up with ambitious Scorpios, who could learn the hard way that pride goes before a fall. Be sure to take legal advice on a pending investigation into your past business practices, or Jupiter, the planet of money and wealth, is likely to go completely retrograde into Uranus.

Sagittarius

Success is bittersweet for young Sagittarians this week. Excitement at passing your maths GCSE resit at the sixth attempt will be shortlived once your mother finds out you are using your new-found skills to price up bags of dodgy pills to sell to your friends.

Borsetshire Rural Cinema


Showing this week: Jenny Aldridgovich

Environmental thriller. Despite her lack of formal education, brave eco-campaigner Jenny builds a case against business mogul Justin Elliott, to accuse him of selling contaminated land to her family and poisoning the local river.
But Jenny finds she has unleashed dangerous forces when it turns out to be her husband Brian’s fault and the Aldridgovichs face a multi-million pound compensation bill. Can daughter Kate and granddaughter Noluthando save the family with their cool, contemporary brand of Xhosa spa treatments?
Warning: contains distressing scenes as Jenny contemplates having to sell Home Farm and move into a yurt without a wine fridge or even an Aga.

  




Sunday, 14 January 2018

Baby talk, business news and a false alarm

Nuclear warning is no threat 

Ambridge Parish Council activated its civil defence plan this week on fears that the village was about to be hit by a nuclear strike.
‘We heard a hooting, booming sound coming from Brookfield, and then a high-pitched keening near the village green,’ said Council chair Neil Carter. ‘We thought it was the four-minute warning. Bert Fry said he’d heard nothing like it since the Cuban missile crisis.
‘We got out the first aid box and mobilised the Mothers’ Union. But when we tried to requisition the Village Hall as a rest centre we found it was a false alarm. Turns out Peggy Woolley was calming down Jill Archer, who’d just heard that Pip was pregnant by Toby Fairbrother. Jill was sobbing and Peggy had trodden on a Siamese cat that someone had brought along for a talk. It was quite a racket.’
David Archer of Brookfield apologised for any distress caused by the alarming noises coming from his farm.
‘It’s all rather silly really,’ he said. ‘I probably sounded a bit cross. But what you heard was me yelling: ‘Nonononononononononooooooo I'm not upset about the baby!’ The whole family couldn’t be happier. Honestly.’  

Kefir flop sparks protest 


Staff at Bridge Farm are threatening a go-slow to protest against the company’s plan to discontinue production of kefir, a fermented milk drink targeting the healthy-eating market. 
Susan Carter, who helped develop the range, said she would work to rule on the yogurts, and have no truck with any new-fangled goats’ cheeses, until management reversed its decision.
‘I’ve put my own blood, sweat and tears into the kefir and I can vouch for the flavour,’ she said. ‘Helen and Tom need to show a bit more imagination in marketing it, that’s all.’
Mrs Carter said she was working on a guide to show how versatile kefir can be.
‘I find it’s a godsend around the house as well as in the fridge,’ she said. ‘You can use it as a hand cream, shaving mousse (including the sensitive bikini area) and hair conditioner, though if you use the hot brush it niffs a bit. My son Chris, who’s a farrier, swears by it to soften up his horses’ cuticles. And my hubby Neil says if you thicken it up it makes lovely grout.’
In a statement, Helen Archer said: ‘Sales of kefir have been disappointing, despite intensive marketing efforts. My mother and I couldn’t even give it away to the homeless at The Elms. Did I tell you we’re helping out there? So rewarding. Anyway, I’m the one with the flair for retail, so tough.’

Red faces over menu mix-up


Ian Craig, head chef at Grey Gables hotel, apologised this week after 'donor eggs' appeared as a choice on the breakfast menu.
'I was a wee bit preoccupied, so I was,' he admitted. 'A few guests complained and a couple asked if we did them over easy or sunny side up, which confused the breakfast chef no end. But one lady from Melton Mowbray left her card and said she might have half a dozen to spare. So it turned out for the best, sure enough.'

From the message boards

We drop in on the AmMums forum, to see what's got the online community talking:

Hey mums, so, can I share with you right now where my head's coming from? Since I've been pregnant I feel I need to connect with you guys on a deep and direct level. I really, really need to know everyone's thrilled for me. It's just not enough to mumble congratulations and shuffle off to feed the ewes. So hey, guys, let me turn this round. Just how pleased for me are you all? And am I right to feel, like, totally scared and also excited about this little Pipling I'm expecting? PreggersPip.

Hi Pip, welcome to the mums' forum!! You'll find we're a really friendly bunch, as long as you commit to breastfeed for three years and never, ever use a disposable nappy. You've got such a thrilling time ahead and it will be the best thing you've ever done – and of course it will be so much easier for you, what with not having to give birth to the child of a violent psychopath in prison, and all. Loads of mummy love. SoBlessedHelen.

Yes, make the most of this time, Pip, because when your child is older you'll know the true pain of motherhood. Noluthando was so sweet when I could wrap her up in a papoose and take her on drumming workshops. Now she's a monster – selfish, manipulative, rude, stubborn, narrow-minded and spiteful. Honestly, you'd think I'd abandoned her or something! I can't think where she gets it from. So I don't want to crush your chakras, Pip, but it's no picnic. Let me know if you'd like mates' rates on our 'Spiritual Mum' wellbeing package. KoolKate  

Hello ladies, hope you don't mind me dropping in here, but I'm so excited I just couldn't stop myself! Looks like Adam and I might be on our way to having our own wee one, now that Lexi is thinking about helping us out. Just a few financial hurdles to overcome but Adam says we'll be flexible. We love message boards; it's where we got all our advice about surrogacy. So much more friendly than going to lawyers, if you know what I mean? So is it OK if I hang around here with all you mums for a wee while? Daddy2BeIan.

Go away Ian! Everyone. 

New series: Brian means business 


Each week we'll bring you a top tip from Ambridge's very own Brian Aldridge, Borsetshire Businessperson of the Year. This week: choosing an agronomist.

Adam did a real bad deal with flaky green agronomists whose office is in an off location in Felpersham. Now he doesn't want to change to Hardys, who are all about the profits. Who needs all that dirty soil with worms in, anyway? He wanted me to have a vote. I said NO!! Then Jenny got cross. So I said, OK, but my vote's bigger than your vote. Sloppy Adam better watch out or he'll be looking for a job real soon.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I just wanted to let your readers know how thrilled everyone at The Bull is about the news that my brother Dave is going be a granddad. At 58. And we're especially pleased to welcome Toby Fairbrother to the family. Old Tobes might be a flaky wastrel, but really, he's not so bad. Once Dave chills with the idea that he needn't bother with any of that father-of-the-bride stuff, he'll be fine! And as Toby's having nothing whatever to do with the baby, who cares that Dave's first grandchild will be 50 per cent Fairbrother! Jolene and I can't wait to hear the patter of little Fairbrother feet running round Brookfield. My mum Jill is beside herself as well. Can't stop talking about it, bless her. It honestly couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Way to go, Dave! You're welcome to wet the baby's head with a Scruff gin on the house any day. Though we'll all understand if you'd prefer to drink in the Ploughman's to avoid the public humiliation.

Yours sincerely
Kenton Archer  







































Sunday, 7 January 2018

Kate is devastated, Lexi is in demand and Gove spills the beans...

Minister makes headlines with shock speech


Environment Secretary Michael Gove left farmers reeling with his shock announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference this week.
‘I had no idea it would have such an impact,’ he told the Ambridge Observer. ‘I honestly thought everyone in the farming world knew that Pip Archer of Brookfield is pregnant. I just wanted to congratulate her. In fact I’d drafted the line: ‘She’s a fine young hogget and I’m sure she’ll have an easy calving’ – to show I’ve got all the agro-economicky words – but my SPAD crossed it out of my speech.’
Brian Aldridge of Home Farm, who attended the conference, said he was ‘deeply insulted’ by Mr Gove’s performance. ‘I went up to him with a copy of the Borchester Echo and suggested a selfie,’ he said. ‘Mr Gove said he’d be delighted and asked where would I like him to sign the paper! The idiot had no idea I was graciously offering him the chance to be photographed with the Borsetshire Businessperson of the Year. Even when I showed him Christian Wyver’s wonderful article about me he seemed none the wiser. In fact his minders ushered me away. No wonder the country is in such a mess.’

Coffee break with… Lexi Viktorova


In our occasional series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we catch up with the new front-of-house manager at Grey Gables Hotel.

Q The New Year’s Eve party at Grey Gables was a triumph, Lexi. You must have been very pleased?

A Oh yes, it was delightful event. In Bulgaria on New Year’s Eve we eat pig’s head and at midnight we hit each other on the back with cherry branches. Is fun. Here is more – how you say – sedate – but I ensure staff work hard and everyone has good time.

Q How do you like working at Grey Gables?

A It is wonderful and the staff are so friendly. For example, on New Year’s Eve the manager, Roy, who is my boyfriend, kept trying to give me a necklace. I said: ‘Wait, you naughty boy! It contravenes hotel jewellery policy and I have clean uniform on.’ But he managed it with his big fingers just before the fireworks went off. Was very romantic.

Q And what about the other staff? Chef Ian Craig is making quite a name for himself, isn’t he?

A Ian is talented chef and lovely person. Always thinks of others. You know, he is so keen for me to stay in U.K., he asked me to be surrogate mother for his baby? I say: surely applying for new work visa would be enough, Ian! But he and Adam say they would rather ask me than go through normal channels to have baby. I say: my channel is quite normal: ask Roy! How we laugh. Roy, not so much.  Excellent staff relations like this are rare in Britain, I think.

Lynda the goat or Lynda Snell?


Since Pat and Tony Archer named one of their new goats Lynda, several readers  have contacted the Ambridge Observer to ask how they can avoid confusing her with Ambridge impresario Lynda Snell. So here’s our at-a-glance guide:

Lynda the goat
Lynda Snell
Female
Female
Stubborn
Stubborn
Bleats annoyingly
Bleats annoyingly
Four legs
Two legs
Smells ‘goaty’
Smells of aromatherapy oils
Wears a fur coat
Wears a hi-vis jacket
Lives in a goat hut
Relaxes in a shepherd’s hut
Doesn’t mind being handled
Doesn’t like having her chakras fiddled with
Has a whiskery chin
How dare you! Just because I’ve been a little laissez-faire in the waxing department…


The Trials of Kate Madikane


In the latest chapter of our searing family saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine is cut to the very quick…  

‘Lovely eyeshadow, Noluthando!’ ‘Yeah, mum, it’s Magic Mushroom shade!’ her daughter giggled, uncontrollably. ‘Oh darling – I’m so glad you’re using vegan make-up.’ Kate’s heart swelled with pride. Noluthando was so – what was it the young people said? – woke, yes, that was it. How lucky she was to have a such a modern, youthful mum. ‘Here, let me try!’ Kate said, taking the brush and painting thick stripes across her face, in the style that had wowed them all at Glastonbury 1998. ‘This is going to be the best New Year’s Eve EVER! You and me, rocking out to Freddie’s beats…’ ‘You know, mum – you don’t have to come,’ said Noluthando with a frown. ‘I don’t really want you there with all my friends…’ Kate stopped, midway through painting a bright red peace symbol on top of the stripes. ‘Whyever not darling?’ Suddenly, she realised. ‘Oh, I see,’ she sighed, patting Noluthando’s hand gently. ‘You needn’t worry I’ll steal all the limelight, sweetie. I know I can be quite… dazzling… but I’ll tone it down so boys will ask you to dance as well…’ Noluthando ran screaming from the room. ‘That’s right, darling,’ Kate beamed at her reflection. ‘Shake out all that stress before our big night!’

*

‘Oh mum, it’s so unfair!’ Kate sat up in bed to let Jennifer settle a tray of camomile tea and toast on her lap. ‘Why is Noluthando so horrid to me? All I wanted was for her to have her birthday party in the yurts, with the firepit and bongos and vegan barbecue! But she says I just don’t ‘get’ her! How selfish can you be?’ ‘Well, darling,’ said her mother, spreading almond butter on Kate’s toast. ‘You are the adult, you know. You need to reach out to Noluthando if you want to make the most of your time together.’  ‘Hmm, you may be right,’ said Kate, sipping her tea thoughtfully. ‘But how am I supposed to be a good mum when you haven’t even cut my toast into soldiers?’ ‘Sorry, darling,’ Jennifer sighed …

*

Bursting with positive energy, Kate marched into the foyer of Borchester College. What a difference her change of attitude had made! She quickly spied Noluthando with Freddie Pargetter, who was handing a small packet to a couple of boys. ‘Yeah, they’re E, lads,’ Freddie was saying. ‘Quality guaranteed!’ This was even better than Kate thought. Noluthando had become so committed to people’s wellbeing, she was encouraging her friends to take vitamins! ‘Darling!’ she called out. Freddie and the boys turned pale and ran off. Still got it, Kate! she smiled to herself. ‘Come on Noluthando – I’m taking you out for coffee!’ 
They were soon settled in the Chippy Hipster, chatting like a proper mum and daughter. ‘I just wanted to say darling, how proud I was of you for giving Lynda Snell that special Xhosa healing treatment,’ Kate said. 'What's your secret?' To her astonishment, Noluthando laughed so loud she almost spat out her strawberry meringue. ‘I made it up, mum! You don’t think I actually believe in all that stuff, do you?’ Kate felt her chakras wobbling dangerously. ‘You mean… you think Spiritual Home is just a sham?’ ‘Got it in one! You’re not as dumb as I thought!’ Noluthando hissed at her. ‘If you wanted to show how much you care, maybe you should have tried harder to be a mother to Sipho and me!’ 
And with that she pulled on her coat and swept out of the café. Kate crumpled in her seat, crying bitter tears into her tofu and banana muffin… Eventually she got out her phone. ‘Mum – oh mum, come and get me!’ she sobbed into Jennifer’s mystified ear…   

Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year special: 2017 - what a year it was in Ambridge!

So farewell then, 2017! It was a year to remember in Ambridge - but just in case you've forgotten already, here are a few of the highlights, as (unfaithfully) reported in the Ambridge Observer:

JANUARY

 Tom and Kirsty were romantically involved on and off the stage…

Triumphant panto run ends in real-life drama  

The last night of Mother Goose in Ambridge ended with a standing ovation on Friday as the hero and heroine used their final scene to share some sensational off-stage news.
‘At first I feared that Kirsty Miller and Tom Archer, playing Colinette and Colin, were following Kenton Archer’s bad example with mischievous improvisation,’ said director Lynda Snell. ‘But as the story unfolded, it was impossible to be churlish. After all, it was art, imitating life, imitating art, imitating life – a hallmark of my most successful productions. And the audience loved it!’
Miss Miller began the impromptu revelation by declaring:

‘Colin, do you recall the fateful day,
when after the trial we slipped away
and made sweet music in your car?
Well, it seems we went too far!
For now I’ve found that I’m expecting –
and it’s yours, in case you were suspecting!’

Mr Archer, clearly stunned, responded:
‘I swear, I’ll help you all I can!
Oh Colinette – let’s see the scan!
Our baby – gosh, how proud I feel –
it beats having your own brand of ready meals!’    

Pat Archer, Mr Archer’s mother, said she was ‘surprised, but delighted’ at the news. ‘It’s not every day you hear you’re going to be a granny in rhyming couplets,’ she said. ‘But I always hoped Tom and Kirsty would get together again. It’s a shame my husband Tony couldn’t be here, but he’s at home fitting his new brake shoes on his Fordson.’
The unscripted finale marked the end of a triumphant run for Mother Goose, which was a hit with audiences and critics alike (see Reviews, below).

… and Jill had a reluctant reconciliation with Pip’s boyfriend Toby Fairbrother:

Thanks to Jill Archer of Brookfield for sending us her recipe for Special Celebratory Flapjacks. ‘I made these as a gift for my granddaughter and her boyfriend Toby, with whom I haven’t always seen eye to eye,’ writes Mrs Archer. ‘I believe in cooking from the heart, and I like to think this recipe will bring us together.’ You said it, Jill!

1 old prune
250g Toby-gets-his oats
250g self-centred flour (Fairbrother’s)
4 tbsp nuts, crushed if possible
250g artificial sweetener
3 eggs (reserve the shells for treading on)
250g butter-wouldn’t melt-in-that-man’s-mouth
1 tbsp olive-branch oil
A large pinch of salt  

Meddle (surely ‘muddle’? Ed) all the ingredients together round a dinner table until you have a stiff, awkward mix. Smooth over any cracks with a thick coating of sugar, and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands (the ones Toby is stealing from Pip, you mark my words).

Remember to say Grace before serving.

FEBRUARY


Rob Titchener’s escape to the USA got Ambridge residents talking…

Justin Elliott, Damara Capital: Mr Titchener is a former employee and I have no comment to make. Except to say that I understand rumours are circulating that when Mr Titchener was employed at Berrow Farm in 2015, he was responsible for the Ambridge flood. Damara Capital denies all knowledge of this and our lawyers will be studying any suggestions of wrongdoing very closely.       
• Rev Alan Franks, St Stephen’s Church: I am very sorry to hear this news, but to be honest I am not surprised. Rob is a troubled soul, although I tried to reach out to him. But when he didn’t attend my last ‘Blokes, Bacon Butties and Bible Breakfast’ I was afraid we had lost him.   
Lily Pargetter, Lower Loxley: Is it true Rob was stuck in the lane because of a fallen tree? So, basically, he got caught because he couldn’t do a three-point turn? How lame. I’ve only just started driving and I can do a three-point turn without even slowing down. Ask my Uncle David.  
Saskia Waitrose, Penny Hassett: I’m completely appalled. My son Elijah was expecting Henry Archer to come over for organic pizza and Transformers, but he didn’t turn up and his mummy didn’t even phone to let me know. So selfish. Elijah and I will be working through his issues on this for weeks.   
• Tracy Horrobin, Ambridge: Ooh, so Rob Titchener’s definitely single now? He sounds more exciting than Roy Tucker. And they’ve got the same initials, so no need to change my new tattoo. Look: RT4EVA.  Have you got his number?


…. And Lilian and Justin’s affair had tongues wagging


Dear Auntie Satya,

My lover and I were sharing a romantic breakfast of salami and Double Gloucester earlier this week, when his wife returned unexpectedly. I had to make a run for it wearing only my fur coat, negligée and his wellies, while he desperately tried to put the cork back in his Dom Pérignon. My friend Jolene says I should press him for a more permanent arrangement, but to be honest all the subterfuge makes me feel young, darling. What do you think? Lilian.

Dear Lilian,

I am all for joie de vivre, but your behaviour is risky, especially at your time of life. You could make yourself ill, sneaking around in your scanties. However, if you are addicted to the excitement as you say, at least take practical steps to avoid freezing in the shrubbery while waiting for a taxi. Perhaps your paramour could build you a shed?

APRIL 

Engagement news!  

Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy revealed the romantic story behind their announcement:

Q Congratulations to you both! Tell us about the proposal. Did you go down on one knee, Justin?
J I did – in The Bull, of all places! And Lilian turned me down! We laugh about it now, don’t we darling, but it was pretty tough for a chap to take at the time. Luckily, I wasn’t kept waiting too long. 
L I’d made such a mess of things. So when I realised Justin was The One, it was my turn to go down on one knee, at the Dower House. Fortunately the slacks I was wearing that day had a touch of Lycra.

Q What about an engagement ring?
L Justin had already bought me some gorgeous earrings, and now we’re going to buy the matching ring. But we’ll have to wait for my swollen knuckle to go down first.
J Yes, that’s my girl! Gave her ex, Matt Crawford, a proper shiner. I didn’t know she had such a good left hook. I’ll have to be careful! (Make it clear the Ambridge Observer doesn’t condone assault. We’ll get more letters. Ed).
Q Justin, had you asked Lilian’s mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage?
J Well, not exactly, although we had a heart-to-heart at the chiropodist’s. My future mother-in-law is a formidable character, let me tell you! And very good feet for her age.
L Mum wants me to be happy, as long as it doesn’t upset the neighbours. She is already ordering a new hat for the wedding!

Q And what plans do you have for the big day?
J I’m entirely in Lilian’s hands – just the way I like it! I’ve told her to name the day – once my divorce comes through, of course.
L At our time of life, we don’t want to make a fuss. But I’m afraid I can’t reveal any details, darling – we’ve already sold the rights to Borsetshire Life.

MAY

Guess who’s back?


Fly-grazed ponies may have a future

A group of ponies found abandoned in Ambridge this week may be saved, after an entrepreneur said he could see they had ‘potential’ for his new business.
The ponies, which were underfed, neglected and carrying injuries, were found by Mrs Lynda Snell in her paddock at Ambridge Hall early on Tuesday morning.  ‘How can anyone be so cruel?’ she said. ‘They just dumped the ponies in with my poor llamas, without giving them any form of warning or counselling. Llamas are quite sensitive, you know. They will be off their hay-and-vitamin-E smoothies for days now.’
Under fly-grazing law, the owners have four days to claim the ponies back but charities say this very rarely happens. However, racing magnate Matt Crawford (are you sure? Ed) has expressed an interest in acquiring the group for a bloodstock operation he is setting up in Costa Rica.
‘So they’re old and knackered, and one of them’s nearly dead with a leg hanging off,’ he said. ‘To be honest, I’ve seen worse than that in a selling plate at Felpersham. If I can get them fit at the right price, they could be ideal for the new race course I’m building. Fantastic location, beautiful grounds – here, just look at the brochure!’ (pictured).
Mr Crawford is currently staying at Grey Gables, where he is negotiating with stud farms on behalf of American investors.   
‘My clients are all tax-exile millionaires, and I reckon they’ll be delighted if I can acquire some horse flesh at a bargain price,’ he said. ‘To be honest, they’re not really interested in livestock, unless it’s between two burger buns. But of course if the ponies don’t work out for racing, that can be arranged, know what I mean?’  

JULY


Helen and Tom had big plans for Bridge Farm:

The Bridge Farm Artisan Foods Experience: special earlybird offer!

Bridge Farm has big plans to build a state-of-the-art, eco, retro, timber-framed Learning and Experience Centre to demonstrate our passion for artisan foods at premium prices – none of that processed supermarket muck.

And this is your chance to be one of the first to experience the experience for yourself!

A voucher to spend the day in our light, airy, eco, retro (yes, get on with it. Ed) is a wonderful treat for yourself – or a thoughtful gift for a loved one. The fully immersive artisan experience at Bridge Farm includes:

• Welcome, valet parking and directions to the toilets (Kirsty Miller)
• Workshop One: ‘There’s more to it than pickling, you know.’ How fermented foods will save the planet (Tom Archer)
• Workshop Two: ‘That’s the whey!’ Make your own organic paneer (Helen Archer)
• Lunch: Soup, sandwich and an informal chat about yogurt with Emeritus Professor of Dairy, Pat Archer
• Afternoon walk: a guided tour of Home Farm’s herbal leys and an earnest lecture on bio-diversity (Kirsty Miller).
• Workshop Three: ‘A flair for retail’: Helen Archer’s farm shop display masterclass, with an opportunity to buy the ingredients for a quinoa-based meal of your choice.

Remember – this experience is not yet available (it depends on selling off 3.5 acres to Justin Elliott to build houses, though some of them will be affordable, honest).

So book now to reserve your place at our first amazing, experience-of-a-lifetime experience!  Only £100 per person (refreshments extra).  

…. And Open Farm Sunday was a success at Brookfield…


Hundreds of families flocked to Ambridge last weekend as farms threw open their barn doors for Open Farm Sunday.
‘It was a very successful day,’ said Pip Archer of Brookfield. ‘I was worried people wouldn’t come, because of the outbreak of IBR, a really nasty, infectious cattle disease that we had. But funnily enough, people didn’t know about it until I reminded them! Even when I went on about how awful it was, with calves dying and everything, it didn’t seem to put them off Gran’s chocolate sponge.
‘It’s great that people know Brookfield for our milk, lamb and beef, and not as the “farm of plague and pestilence”, said Miss Archer. 'I bet they went home, forgot about the hideous, contagious disease they’d just been exposed to, and increased their orders for Brookfield beef. No wonder Dad says I’m a marketing genius.’
But not everyone was happy that Brookfield had decided to take part in the event. ‘They’ve got a nerve after all the trouble they caused with the IBR,’ said Tom Archer of Bridge Farm. ‘And they’ve got my dad’s classic Fordson tractor, which is worse. Everyone knows the kids love to climb up on an old relic. That’s why we usually invite Joe Grundy over to tell his tales of old Borsetshire.
‘As it was, there was nothing to distract the visitors from my sister Helen. Her friend Kirsty had made a sign for her, which read ‘Yes, I’m Helen Archer who stabbed her husband. No, you can’t have a selfie. Get over yourself and taste my  cheese.’ But it only seemed to make people more determined to ask her about the trial. And no one was interested in my fermented foods at all. Although someone did ask me if Kale Kimchi was that bloke out of EastEnders.’

The summer fete saw some intriguing new attractions:


The Human Fruit Machine (three blokes in booths holding up random pieces of fruit) is not the only unusual stall at this year’s Ambridge fête. Also on offer in keeping with the ‘tradition with a twist’ theme are:

Human Speak-Your-Weight Machine
Susan Carter makes personal remarks and asks intrusive questions about your friends and family until you pay her to stop. Donations to the women’s cricket changing room fund.

Human Coconut (Flapjack) Shy
Relive the celebrity chef experience as Jill Archer throws her famous traybakes at your head. Don't forget to Duck-sford! As heard on Radio Borsetshire. Donations to the Happy Friends Café.

Human Bookstall
Listen to Lynda Snell read from her favourite books including Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Get Off My Land, a Nimby’s Manual by Xavier Greene-Belt. Donations to Speedwatch.

Human Kiss-Me-Quick Hat
Tracy Horrobin… (that’s enough stalls. Ed).


Ambridge said goodbye to a much-loved family member, and Borsetshire Laureate Bert Fry composed an ode for the occasion:


A poem for Caroline

And so farewell to Caroline Bone,
Or Sterling, as you were to become known.
The village of Ambridge will miss you sorely,
And no one even knew you were poorly.

Though your husband Oliver will mourn you bitterly,
You died in peace, at your home in Italy.
It was where you loved to drink wine and eat peaches,
A place where you both had found your niches.

Your life was always busy and full,
From your first job in Ambridge, at The Bull.
Jack Woolley could see that you were able,
And made you manager of Grey Gables.

You were never one for airs and graces,
Despite your connections in high places.
As Lord Netherborne’s niece, you didn’t fret
When you had to host Princess Margaret.

You were so happy as Oliver’s wife,
But not always lucky in love or life.
You had your passions, I recall,
It would take me too long to name them all.

There was Matthew the doctor, and Robin the vet,
And Cameron Fraser – one to forget,
And even – it’s rumoured –  Mr Brian Aldridge,
But that’s all water under the bridge.

You found true love with first husband Guy,
Though much too soon, Mr Pemberton died.
But never one to mope and moan,
You carried on bravely all alone

Until you met your soulmate Oliver,
And from then on life could not be jollier.
Not blessed with family of your own,
To foster children you opened your home.

And young Will Grundy always knew,
As his godmother, he could rely on you.
Eddie and Joe often tried your patience,
But you were always kind and gracious.

So Caroline, Ambridge loved you dear,
And we all wish you were still here.
And though you lie in foreign parts,
You will always live on in our hearts.

AUGUST


Home from Oxford for the summer, Phoebe found herself in a spot of trouble:


Poll of the Week

What was it that made Phoebe Aldridge so sick that she couldn’t keep down her morning-after pill? Vote now!

O Jennifer Aldridge’s baked apples
O Clarrie Grundy’s cheesecake
O Lynda Snell’s Black Forest gateau
O Constantin’s spotted dick
(That’s enough options. Ed.)

But the arrival of the seasonal workers brought romance for Roy Tucker:


Holiday special: Handy Bulgarian Phrasebook

It’s that time of year again, when Ambridge is overrun with immigrants (surely, welcomes seasonal workers from the EU? Ed.)  Reader Roy Tucker has contacted the Ambridge Observer for tips on how to break the ice and get to know our visitors better – especially Lexi, from near Sofia. We hear you, Roy! Here are some useful phrases:

• Romanian, Bulgarian – they’re the same, aren’t they?

Rumŭnski, bŭlgarski, te sa edni i sŭshti, nali?

• I am not a racist, I just don’t like foreign people.

Az ne sŭm rasist, prosto ne kharesvam chuzhdestrannite khora

• Can I buy you a drink, even though I voted Brexit?

Moga li da vi kupya napitka, vŭpreki che glasuvakh Breksit?

• I would like to take control of your borders.

Bikh iskal da poema kontrola nad vashite granitsi.

Through the year, Borsetshire Rural Cinema showed some classics:


Last Tango in Grey Gables

Two senior citizens meet at a viewing for a house they would both like to buy. Reminding her how they used to love doing dodgy property deals, he persuades her to go his hotel suite with champagne and asks for a last kiss before he disappears from her life forever (again). She is torn between her ex, her trusting fiancé and her nephew waiting petulantly for his dinner in reception. It can only end in tears… (Contains some scenes unsuitable for family viewing).

Fungus in the Attic

Perfect for Hallowe’en!

In this 1990s schlock-horror classic, misunderstood kids Freddie and Noluthando try to find some excitement in their meaningless lives by picking ‘magic mushrooms’. But while drying the shrooms, they find themselves trapped in the attic of their creepy old family mansion, where the staff never go. No one hears their screams because Freddie’s twin Lily is busy dispensing unwanted romantic advice, their mother is fretting over the Hunt Ball and house guest Pip is having a noisy reunion with lover Toby. And the plot takes a terrifying twist when Noluthando rubs an old diver’s helmet and summons the ghost of Freddie’s late father Nigel, who is bent on revenge for his untimely death… 

Knocked Up (18)

Rising young dairy farmer Pip hits a serious bump in the road after a brief reunion with irresponsible ex Toby results in pregnancy. Uncertain what to do, she decides to give Toby a chance to prove he is father material. However, when he produces his season ticket to the termination clinic and offers to drive her there, she begins to doubt if they are truly compatible, and wonders if she would be happier helping her parents redesign the milking parlour.  Warning: contains scenes of excruciating awkwardness.      


OCTOBER


Emma Grundy and Robert Snell went head to head…
 

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.’

… and Brian nearly blew a fuse when Noluthando came to stay..



Weather experts were left red-faced this week after Storm Brian, which was forecast to cause widespread chaos in Ambridge, blew over without much fuss.
‘We know what can happen when Brian blows his top,’ said one. ‘And we thought there would be an almighty row when his granddaughter said she wouldn’t go to college while she is staying at Home Farm.
‘The prospect of Noluthando lazing about all day watching Netflix had already whipped Brian into a tropical storm, which strengthened to hurricane force when he stepped on Kate’s Om Tingsha bells in bare feet.
‘We fully expected raging winds that would see Spiritual Home’s yurts flying over to Penny Hassett,’ said our source. ‘But in the end, Freddie Pargetter persuaded Noluthando that college would be cool. So she gave in. Phew.’ 
     

NOVEMBER

                                   

Matt was a marked man at the Hunt Ball…


Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has warned that ex-pat businessman Matt Crawford faces arrest if he attends South Borsetshire Hunt Ball on Sunday evening.
‘This evil, heartless criminal has got away with too much for far too long,’ he said. ‘We already suspect him of stalking Mrs Lilian Bellamy by fitting a tracker to her dog Ruby, and also to Mrs Bellamy’s phone. This enabled him to follow her into the ladies’ dressing rooms at House of Fraser in Birmingham, disguised in a midnight blue velvet backless ballgown, to force on her a one-way ticket to Costa Rica.  
‘Shula Hebden Lloyd has also reported Mr Crawford for the malicious campaign against her equine businesses, which has cost them important clients. Of course, one horse died and one was injured at The Stables lately, but it was jolly unfair of Mr Crawford to tell everyone.
‘He then dared to compound his crime by donating a £5,000 Rhine cruise for two to the Hunt Ball raffle, thereby obliging Mrs Hebden Lloyd to give him a ticket for the ball.
‘All this was bad enough,’ said PC Burns. ‘But Mr Crawford was then overheard expressing homophobic and bigoted views on surrogate parenthood to Adam Macy, which quite understandably prompted Mr Macy to exercise his right to bop him on the nose.’
‘All I can say to Mr Crawford is ‘Mind how you go,’ said PC Burns. ‘He has already given at least three guests at the ball the motive to do him a mischief. And if he emerges from his suite at Grey Gables to attend the ball, he may find his ‘plus one’ is a burly officer of the law.’

PC Burns was desperate to find the hit-and-run culprit:

 Five weeks after the hit-and-run incident that nearly killed fugitive fraudster Matt Crawford, police admit they are no nearer to making an arrest. But the enquiry stepped up this week as Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) unveiled an unorthodox operation designed to flush out the culprit. 
‘It was talking to our vicar about the pantomime that gave me the idea,’ he said. ‘He thinks he persuaded me to play Prince Florian, but it’s all a cunning ruse. Halfway through the first act I’m going to whip my notebook out of my doublet and put the audience on the spot. I’m going to kick off with these lines:
‘Ladies and gents, your help I need
To find out who did a dreadful deed.
So if you know who splatted Matt,
Please don’t keep it under your hat.’
Then I’m going to point at someone on the stage and say: "It’s him!" And the audience will roar back: "Oh no it isn’t!" and I’ll reply: "Oh yes it is!" and so on.
Of course, I’m hoping that the culprit will break cover and run across the stage, so the audience can shout "He’s behind you!" Then I’ll give chase and cuff him as he gets tangled up in the stage curtains. Job’s a good ‘un.’

DECEMBER 

As Matt got away with it, Lilian got her man (sort of):


The plot of the Ambridge Christmas pantomime took an unexpected twist this week when Friday’s dress rehearsal was accidentally double-booked with the wedding of Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy at Lower Loxley.
‘We couldn’t have the village hall because the boiler was broken, but I have to say everyone rose to the challenge brilliantly,’ said the director, Revd Alan Franks.
‘As a result, we’ve included some hilarious new scenes, including:
• Fur flies as Fabrice the hairdresser is reunited with Peggy Woolley’s pussy and attempts to give her a celebratory blue rinse. Hilda Ogden is not amused!
• Harrison Burns does a clog dance to The Laughing Policeman, accompanied by heavy hints about Count Justin’s criminal tendencies.
• Countess Lilian’s handmaidens, Queen Edwina (Eddie Grundy) and Lady Jennifer, enlist the Penny Hassett tug-of-war team to hoist the bride into her wedding dress. Pure slapstick!
• A touching duet, written for Count Justin and Countess Lilian by Borsetshire laureate Bert Fry, who has given The AmOb a sneak preview:

Count Justin:
‘I cannot sign this pre-nup, dear,
For legal docs fill me with fear. So sorry folks, I will not wed her –
But still I cannot wait to bed her!’

Countess Lilian:
‘Oh Justin darling, what a tease,
Your cold feet brought me to my knees.
But as I’m now too old for Tinder,
We’re still going on our trip to India!’


Thanks for reading, everyone, and Happy New Year! Looking forward to lots more reporting from the front line of farming, fetes and family feuds in Ambridge in 2018!