Sunday, 11 January 2015

Slurry worries and a baby bombshell … anxious times in Ambridge

Holiday talk on tick

Holidays were in the air in Ambridge this week. We learned from Brian that Lilian is off in Madeira, putting the fun in Funchal, but has left Matt moping in the Dower House. Adam and Ian are in Miami, while Charlie treated himself to three whole days at the Oxford Farming Conference. ‘Charlie and Adam may have fallen out professionally, but there’s no personal animosity,’ observed Jenny in one of the understatements of 2015 so far.
But the most exciting holiday plans are at the Bull, where Kenton is about to whisk Jolene away on a business-class trip to New Zealand and Australia. Not surprisingly, having just seen Nathan Booth hitching up his trousers, and Sabrina Thwaite clearing up after her labradoodle, Jolene is keen on a change of scene. ‘You gorgeous man!’ she purred at Kenton, who is funding all this luxury with his credit card, thinking to pay it back when the Brookfield millions come in…

But will slurry worries sink the sale? 

David, Ruth and Pip had an entertaining trip to Franchester (no, never heard of it before either) to see a robotic milking parlour, courtesy of Pip’s college friend Fran. David was skeptical, but nearly swooned when Fran revealed that the automated system increased yield by 12% and reduced mastitis by 50%. ‘Don’t the cows miss the human touch?’ he asked wistfully. But it turns out that the ladies prefer laser-guided teat location to Eddie Grundy’s horny-handed ministrations. Funny that.
All was not so rosy back at Brookfield though, where slurry at Hadley Haugh is causing a stink. It turns out that Ros and Steve (the vendors) had kept quiet about a storage problem that is going to cost David and Ruth £140,000 to fix. This especially upset David because it brought back memories of the marauding badgers that sabotaged the Archers’ own slurry tank. ‘Flipping badgers!’ he cursed, which seems a bit unfair on new Pip, played by Daisy Badger.
Ruth though is more concerned about the cash: ‘We’re starting to leak money left right and centre. How much more is going to drain away before we can move north?’

Freda’s surfeit of Pontefract cakes

1967: Freda's home perm kit
went badly wrong
Ruth isn’t the only one to fret about the Brookfield plans. Bert confided to Carol that he and Freda are worried that Justin Elliott might turf them out of their bungalow – so much so that Freda ate a whole packet of Pontefract cakes and made herself ill. ‘It’s affecting her nerves something awful – not seen her like it since her home perm kit went wrong,’ he said, wisely turning down Carol’s offer of camomile tea.
But it could yet get worse for the Frys: Kenton is planning a new chef for the Bull as part of a Brookfield-funded makeover. Faced with eviction from her home, the sack from her job, and a future as Bert’s amanuensis, while he composes his lengthy poem cycle, A Borsetshire Boy, poor Freda is caught between a rock and a hard place.  But this week, thanks to all those Pontefract cakes, she was just caught short.

Roll out the vegan Barolo

Phoebe’s week didn’t start well, when Pip returned the embarrassing hat she’d been trying so hard to lose since New Year’s Eve. It got worse when Kate tried to teach her and Pip how to meditate, and threatened to tie Phoebe’s hair in cornrows.
But the final straw was a cosy lunch at Botticelli’s, involving Kate, a bottle of vegan Barolo, a lot of self-pity and Phoebe as an afterthought.
‘Phoebe, you’ll be hurt all your life if you don’t realise that men can be fun, fascinating and exciting, but also a source of negative energy,’ Kate slurred. ‘Now I’ll just have one more glass while we talk this through…. (slurp). Your father has good points, but he has a very unbalanshed schpiritual core…’
This was too much even for Phoebe, who is beginning to look more kindly on Roy now that Kate is the alternative parenting option. ‘Give me your car keys mum, I’ve called a taxi to take you home,’ she calmly told a protesting but hapless Kate, whose daily intention seemed to change from ‘Be here now’, to ‘Be off my head by teatime’.

Little shop of organic horrors

Showing just a hint of the sensible businessperson she used to be, Helen took a look at the Ambridge Organics books this week – and got a shock. Christmas sales and profits were well down. What had gone wrong? Tina the manager blamed the Jetstream, lack of clear instructions, incompetence at Bridge Farm and Kelvin the sickly casual. She also hinted that she’d been encouraged to ‘take risks’ with the ordering, which Helen didn’t remember saying.
Helen foolishly told Tom about her worries, which brought out the Tetchy in Titchener. He put the blame on ‘time bombs Kirsty left in the order books’ and tried to put Helen off from getting more hands-on in the shop. ‘If you think Tina will work better being hovered over, it’s up to you, darling,’ he said, before going upstairs to do his scary troll voice for Henry.
Helen then gave Johnny a rocket for sending too much rocket – well, pak choi and mizuna – to the shop. ‘You sent eight trays, not three,’ she chastised the poor boy, whose self-esteem is already in a tailspin, thanks to his exam failures. But could someone have changed the 3 to an 8? And given Tina the wrong instructions? Surely no one would want to sabotage the shop business so Helen can’t work there, would they? Rob?

Tony takes a turn for the better

It was Pat’s birthday this week, and she received ‘the only present I ever wanted’ – the sight of Tony sitting up in an armchair in hospital, taking a lively interest in all matters Ambridge. Not only that – the old charmer had managed to persuade a lovely Irish nurse to stop saving lives for half an hour and go and buy Pat her favourite perfume. ‘Before the surgery, I remember you telling me not to leave you … and I always do what the boss says’. Not a dry eye on the ward – but who will be the one who dares to tell Tony what’s happened to Otto?

Baby bombshell at Blossom Hill Cottage

Rob began the week continuing his creepy campaign to get Helen to conceive again. ‘Poor old Henry seems so alone,’ he wheedled on a freezing country walk (Henry, meanwhile, was perfectly happy strangling Squiggle the squirrel, his new best friend.)
But Rob's plan for Tiny Titchener no 2 was soon derailed by the arrival of a letter from the Child Maintenance Service, in which Mrs Jess Titchener names Mr Rob Titchener as the father of Tiny Titchener no 1 and claims financial support accordingly.
‘Bitch!’ Rob nearly spat out his Shiraz. ‘I never thought she’d stoop as low as this!’
‘But Rob…’ wailed Helen. ‘It’s not your baby… this must be a mistake! Rob?’
The Ambridge Observer predicts that Henry will not be the only one to hear Rob’s scary troll voice in the next week or so…


  1. Thank you Neil - again! Very kind. It's great fun to write.

  2. The Ambridge Observer: a good quick and very funny read. And all for free.

  3. Thank you Pauline - much appreciated!