Sunday, 18 January 2015

Paternity, parlours and a PR disaster: it's all kicking off in Ambridge

Who’s the daddy? Take the test!

What’s that dark shadow over Blossom Hill Cottage? It’s Rob’s chickens, all coming home to roost on the roof. Helen was even relieved of cooking lunch so that Rob could confront Jess over her maintenance claim for her baby. ‘He’s called Ethan, and he’s absolutely adorable,’ said the proud mum. ‘He’s got your nose – and your mum thinks he looks just like you too.’
The row rumbled on all week, fuelled by the Child Maintenance Service, which for some reason wouldn’t take Rob’s word for it that he isn’t the baby’s father.
Helen, of course, is standing by her man, even though Pat, who is worried about her neglect of the shop, tried to sow a seed of doubt (or reason) by suggesting that if Rob is not the father, the DNA test would sort it quickly enough. Helen even dared to mention to Rob, ever so gently, that they would never be free of Jess, ‘that clearly deranged woman’, unless he does take the test.
‘I Am Not Dancing To That Woman’s Tune,’ snapped Rob. ‘This is absolutely outrageous… blatant harassment. I am not the father of Jess’s wretched child…’ How long can he keep up the hurt innocence before the deep, dangerous anger breaks through? Helen had better hide the knives …

David and Ruth, cast out of the Garden of Eden…

This week David and Ruth went to visit two more milking parlours: one robotic, and one traditional. (For full report, see our Farm Tech supplement, page 94).
Jill had a wobble because she thought Alan’s sermon, about farmers who don’t cultivate their garden, was having a go at her family. ‘People think David and Ruth are letting the side down, and they talk about me in the village shop,’ she worried to Shula. But Ruth was delighted that one of the parlours, on a farm called Eden, was self-cleaning, which gave her ideas for the kitchen at Hadley Haugh. David took the bold decision to invest in robotics, and Ros and Steve offered £70,000 to help pay for slurry storage. And everyone was so relieved that the new tank would be badger-proof, it was celebrations and shepherd’s pie all round.

Tell your Uncle Tom all about it …

A spell on the prairies sure can change a person. Tom, who went to Canada a selfish, bitter and broken man, has returned all twinkly and empathetic, dispensing crackerbarrel philosophy to anyone who’ll listen.  This week, he shared manly home-truths with Roy: ‘Women seem to manage these things so much better, but don’t give up hope Roy. When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.’  Then he not only gave Johnny some handy tips on spotting a chubby heifer, which should come in handy at the next Young Farmers’ bash; he also diagnosed the young lad’s dyslexia and cured it in his lunch hour, just by printing out Johnny’s farming textbook on a piece of brown paper. No wonder Tony is improving so fast: one more visit from Tom and he’ll be playing volleyball with the nurses. 

Fallon and Harrison make sweet … marmalade?

Jam today and marmalade
tomorrow for the happy couple 
Sensitive readers might like to turn the page, as this week we report from Fallon’s bedroom. PC Burns finally took down her particulars, with much damage to Fallon’s eye make-up. The lovebirds had a playful tiff over marmalade (he’s a fan, she’s a plum jam/chocolate spread girl) but they both agreed that their love-nest was too chilly. The heating is on the blink; it seems Fallon’s old boiler needs servicing. Meanwhile, down at The Bull, Jolene was concerned about Kenton’s plans to buy out Lilian’s share. Not because Kenton has already spent the Brookfield windfall at least three times in his head, but because of Lilian's affection for her childhood home. Little do they know that The Bull will soon be the least of Lilian’s problems…

No cast-offs for a Carter 

She might be a second-hand bride, but there’s no way Susan Carter’s daughter is walking down the aisle in a second-hand frock. Emma herself is quite happy to wed in a charity-shop or Ebay number: ‘I’m marrying Ed; he won’t care if I turn up in my pyjamas,’ she said, Ed clearly being less fashion-conscious than, say, Rob. But Susan was appalled, and so was Clarrie. ‘It’s that Fallon’s influence,’ she said, with a vicious swipe of the yogurt-labelling gun. So the two mums have hatched a plan to dig out their old Simplicity patterns and make Emma’s dress as a wedding present. Twiggy is modelling on one of them, so Emma may get her vintage wish after all….

Justin's puff piece upstages Jenny’s plough

It was too much for Jenny. She’d sent a picture of the SAVE team with an antique plough to the Borchester Echo, only to find she’d been scooped by a double-page spread interview with Justin Elliot. The Dark Lord of Ambridge was even photographed leaning on a five-barred gate in a squeaky-new Barbour, professing his love of the countryside. Jenny’s contempt for the running dogs of the lackey capitalist press boiled over. ‘It’s blatant propaganda,’ she fumed to Shula. ‘So much for unbiased journalism. It’s a fawning sycophantic piece of fiction.’
Never fear, Jenny! The Ambridge Observer is proud to run your exclusive about Justin's plans for a massive industrial distribution hub, even though it’s based solely on a tipsy chat Jim had with a builder at the Local Enterprise Partnership do. Publish and be Damara, we say.
Meanwhile Jenny could expect little support from Kate, who refused to help with the SAVE jumble sale (‘so last century – it’s all social media now’) and retired to meditate until Jenny’s home-made vegan carrot cake was ready. Despite being accepted by Felpersham University for her course (having passed the gruelling ‘cheque-clearing’ exam) it was a frustrating week for Kate: her attempts to bond with Phoebe by borrowing her eyeliner and suggesting skating trips are falling on stony ground. She eventually persuaded her to sit down and watch Modern Family, blissfully unaware that poor Phoebe is already living in an episode of Modern Family – without the life-affirming celebration of social diversity. Or the jokes.

Who’s sat on Pusscat’s Matt?

Lilian had an unhappy homecoming from her jaunt to Madeira. She returned to the Dower House to find the safe open, paintings gone and no Matt. At first she suspected burglary, but soon found that he had done a runner with nearly all their money and even worse, all the wine. The only clue, sniffed out by PC Burns, was a note saying ‘Sorry pusscat’.
A weaker woman might conclude that her partner had found love in the arms of another, and reached for the gin. But not Lilian. ‘He must be in bad trouble if couldn’t even admit it to me’, she told Harrison, now her rather unlikely confidant. ‘Matt and I stuck together through thick and thin and I’m not giving up on him now. One way or another I’m going to find him and we’ll sort this out together.’ Whether it’s too late, and Matt is already propping up a motorway somewhere, having crossed the Russian mafia once too often, remains to be seen…

Diary Dates

25th Jan: Burns Night at The Bull. Jazzer McCreery, Ambridge’s very own hairy Hibernian, delights with his bagpipes (or will stop if you buy him a pint).
14th February: ‘We’ll meet again’ – 1940s themed Valentine’s Day Ball at The Bull. Freda Fry serves up her famous Woolton pie! (Dance lessons: Mike & Vicky Tucker. Costume hire: Fallon Rogers).
17th February: Shrove Tuesday at The Bull! Pancake races for the little ones and a grown-ups’ pancake party hosted by Fallon and Harrison. Choose your favourite topping: marmalade, plum jam or chocolate spread.
15th March: Mothering Sunday. All mums (and dads) are invited to a special lunch in the village hall  with our guest of honour, Ambridge’s newest mum: Mrs Jess Tichener!


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  2. Essential reading for those of us who are struggling to keep up.

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  4. Thank you Lesley - and sorry that I appear to have 'removed' a comment from you. It was a duplicate, so I deleted it and didn't realise your name would remain. For the record, you are definitely not my first troll!

  5. Good stuff. Will definitely keep reading! Just a note for your Corrections and Clarifications editor... I'm pretty sure Jazzer is Scottish ;) That would make him a Hairy Caledonian, what with Hibernia being Ireland. That does rather spoil the alliteration, but you can't have everything :)

    Keep up the good work - it's almost like being there again a couple of months later!

  6. Thank you Ben – you're absolutely right of course; I've flogged the sub responsible and made her work on Jennifer Aldridge's copy for punishment. If she slips up again I'll rely on you to point it out!