Sunday, 30 August 2015

Drama at the shop, opera at Lower Loxley, and the music stops for Helen: a devastating week in Ambridge

Pip finds home is where the heart is…

Ambridge’s bookmakers were throwing themselves off bridges this week as all those who had bet that Pip wouldn’t last a week in High Wycombe came to collect their winnings.
‘As soon as I got there I knew it wasn’t for me,’ she told her dad. ‘I was hanging round the office, and the Brazil placement has been cancelled for this year. I’d learn more here.’
‘Are you sure this isn’t because of some… boy thing?’ David asked. ‘No!’ said Pip. ‘Just because Toby says if I go away Josh will take over Brookfield with his Egg Empire, and just because I fancy Toby like mad, played no part in my decision!’
‘That’s alright then Pipsqueak!’ said David, unable to conceal his delight. ‘Welcome home! Have some lemon drizzle cake?’

… and Harrison has home truths for Kenton

It was a good week for Ambridge’s rural crime unit (PC Harrison Burns). Having taken advantage of Fallon’s impending eviction to ask her to move in with him, he also made time for a man-to-man, heart-to-heart chat with the hapless Kenton. ‘Me and my brother went our separate ways,’ he confided. ‘I don’t know how to fix it with him, but there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t wish I could.’
‘If we weren’t related, David and I would have nothing to do with each other,’ Kenton said, pouring Scotch on his cornflakes.
‘It’s easy to lose your family, but very hard to get them back,’ reflected PC Burns, heading off to follow up another lead on the missing bunting.
Will his wise words be enough to heal the rift before Pip’s big farewell/welcome home family meal? It remains to be seen…

Summer fiction special

The Trials of Helen Titchener

Chapter four of our exclusive serial by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, in which our heroine finds the honeymoon is over before it even began…  

The ringing phone woke Helen from her nightmare. Sobbing, she sat up and saw the wedding photo on the bedside table. It was so romantic of Rob to ask the waitress to take their picture in that little fish saloon in Ryde, next to the register office. Now, their smiling faces seemed to mock her. She knocked the picture to the carpet, then carefully put it back in case Rob noticed later.
Bruised in body and soul, she tentatively made her way downstairs. The sight of last night’s citrus-cured salmon with horseradish crème fraiche and watercress and dill salad turned her stomach. The phone was still ringing. She drank some water – the water that Rob had refused her last night – and answered it.
‘Hello Little Miss Giggly! Didn’t we have a wild night? Where have you been all morning? You haven’t been out I hope?’ His voice was playful, but now she recognised its steely edge.
‘No, no darling,’ she stammered. Out? Of course! Where would she go? 
But Rob was speaking again. ‘You’ll look gorgeous in that dress for the opera tonight – if I can restrain myself from ripping it off you again, of course.’ He chuckled. ‘Don’t let me down Helen.’ He rang off and she rushed to her handbag.
Damn! She’d spent her weekly allowance on school uniform for Henry, and Rob had all her credit cards; he was getting them assigned to their new joint account.
She sat down stiffly on a kitchen chair. Her party dress was flung over the back, torn and stained. She buried her face in its silky folds. How could she have been so blind? And how could she face the opera at Lower Loxley tonight?
Then it occurred to her. Her mum would be there. Lovely, radical feminist Pat, who always doubted Rob. Only this week she was quizzing Helen about why he’d left his job without telling her.   
Maybe this evening she could confide in her mother, who would show her a way out of this living hell. She wiped away her tears and began washing up, hope fluttering in her heart like a small bird in a cage.


The pre-opera party was in full swing when Helen and Rob arrived at Lower Loxley. Smiling as Rob had insisted, she scanned the elegantly dressed crowd for her parents and called out with relief when she saw them. ‘Well, who’s this glamorous couple?’ Pat beamed. ‘And don’t you scrub up well Rob?’ In spite of herself, Helen could see he looked handsome in his tuxedo by Borchester’s bespoke tailors, Jekyll & Hyde.
‘How was last night? Was it as special as Rob was planning?’ Under Rob’s hard stare, Helen’s courage failed. ‘Um, yes, he takes such good care of me mum,’ she mumbled.
The first half of the opera seemed to last a lifetime. Rob sat close to her, running his fingers up and down her bare back as if he were playing a piano. It made her skin crawl. But at last he went to fetch their ‘Puccini Paninis and Mozart Macaroons’ picnic hamper.
This was her chance. ‘Mum…’ Helen began. ‘Helen – I just want to say,’ said Pat, sipping her Cosi Fan Tutte Frutti cocktail. ‘I’m so sorry I ever doubted Rob. What a wonderful man, husband and father he is! And he loves organic farming – who knew? I’ve seen a new side to him. I’m so happy for you both!’
At her mother’s words, the little bird of hope in Helen’s heart keeled over and died… To be continued…

Blimey Lavinia, this is a bit grim! Have you been applying for scriptwriting jobs on EastEnders again? Can we have more Princess Kate next week? Ed.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam, I am a researcher casting for the new series of ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show and would like to contact Ambridge residents who have a dispute they would like Jeremy to resolve on air. The kind of thing audiences love is:
a stand-up row between an old lady and a shop manager wearing a pink and orange tabard who accuses the old lady of putting her own family before the needs of the community
a fist fight between a shop manager and a farm owner who is accused of treachery and betrayal over plans to expand their farm shop at the expense of villagers and volunteers
a mass brawl between an evil landlady, the old lady, an interfering old gent, the shop manager, volunteers and customers, over who owns the village shop: private landlord or community asset? 
Do you know of any local people who might fit the bill? We supply transport, security, after-show counselling and DNA tests, if required.
Please contact Tamsincleverclogs@prurientproductionsltd.  

Charity appeal: help the Ambridge homeless!

As the flood continues to take its toll, readers are asked to dig deep to help those with tragic stories of struggling to cope:

Jill, a grandma in her eighties, has been forced to leave her son’s house and move to her daughter’s stately home, where she will have her own suite, with views of the ha-ha and curtains too heavy to wash by hand;
Fallon, a young entrepreneur is being evicted by her cruel landlady and is going to set up home with her policeman boyfriend;
Matthew, a contract milker new to the area, will have to find another well-paid job with accommodation now that Pip isn’t working away after all;
Jim, since moving in with his son and daughter-in-law, has developed a stress disorder which causes him to babble ceaselessly and tiresomely in Italian. 

All donations gratefully received, thank you. Are these really the best examples we could find? Ed.

Situation wanted

Experienced dairy manager looking for fresh challenges would like to own (sorry, manage) a local organic farm business. Skills include bullying, manipulating, deceiving and browbeating. Handy with fists (sorry, farm machinery); talented farm shop designer. Ideally suited to a family farm looking to be taken for a ride (sorry, to the next level). Apply to Rob Titchener, Blossom Hill Cottage (but only if your name is Pat or Tony Archer).

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Rob departs, David breaks his mum’s heart and the village hall falls apart: a momentous week in Ambridge

Ambridge Village Hall: have your say!

The Ambridge flood continued to take its toll this week as the iconic Village Hall collapsed, completely burying much-loved local character Joe Grundy in the rubble. (Surely, a near miss with a roof tile? Ed)
As the Brownies have been banned from all public buildings, following an unfortunate incident in their temporary HQ at Penny Hassett, Borchester Town Council is considering a number of applications to take over the Village Hall – and would like to consult readers’ opinions. Vote now for your preferred option:
• David and Ruth Archer would like to turn the building into a care home, initially for Jill, Bert and Heather but eventually for other bewildered elderly, like Brian and Peggy. ‘How different can it be from running a farm? Old people like frozen pizza, don’t they?’ said Ruth.
• Hazel Woolley plans to turn the hall into high-end apartments, linked to her other upmarket development at the village shop by a spectacular glass swimming pool, 50m in the air. ‘It’s just what wealthy, sophisticated incomers are looking for – and there will be cleaning jobs for the little people, like the Grundy woman,’ she said.
Rob Titchener aims to build a high-security breeding unit. ‘Helen’s really not up to having a job, like making cheese and running a shop,’ he said, ‘so I’m going to take over that side of things. And with my experience of intensive dairy farming I’ll make the unit comfortable and efficient, so all she has to worry about is having my babies.’
Kate Madikane sees the Village Hall as the perfect location for her holistic wellbeing retreat. ‘All I have to do is pluck up courage to ask Brian for the money,’ she says. ‘Perhaps I’ll wait until he’s stuffed himself senseless on mum’s bacon and mushroom vol-au-vents, and slip my business plan into his jacket.’

The nation celebrates a little prince’s special day…

Ambridge put out the bunting this week for Mungo Bellamy, known to one and all as ‘Lynda’s little prince’, who returned from his London residence to celebrate his first birthday. Villagers entertained each other with stories of where they were when Mungo was born, and queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the toddler as he arrived at the Dower House with his parents, Leonie and James.
‘Of course, we’re having a very special party,’ said doting grandma Lynda Snell. ‘Mungo is a sensitive and creative child, given to expressing himself forcefully! Just in case he decides to reprise his performance at his sensory class, guests will be issued with monogrammed earplugs.
‘On advice from Mungo’s mother, Robert and I have also covered every surface of the Dower House with plastic sheeting. And we have ensured that the children’s entertainer, Monsieur Le Pape, is booked in for trauma counselling after the party.’

….. while Kenton throws another toddler tantrum

For someone who earns a living in hospitality, Borsetshire’s most miserable landlord really doesn’t like parties. Having refused to attend his own birthday lunch last week, this week it was an invitation to a farewell dinner for Pip at Brookfield that set him off.
‘We can have the meal at any time to suit you,’ Jill assured Jolene, who was nervous about even broaching the subject with her prickly spouse. And sure enough, the village was deafened by the noise of Kenton chucking his toys out of the pram.
Afterwards, he was remorseful, but of course it was all Phil and David’s fault. ‘Dad respected and trusted one of us, but it wasn’t me’, he reflected. Which is why he got together with ‘poor old Kathy – I thought that was all I deserved,’ he confessed, adding graciousness to the list of virtues Jolene loves him for.
Kenton credits Jolene with saving him – but, as he helpfully pointed out, her livelihood and home are in ruins, largely thanks to him. Will she stand by her man, or pack up her rhinestone waistcoats and hit the highway? It remains to be seen…   

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

Following the sudden departure of dairy manager Rob Titchener from Berrow Farm, I’d just like to clear up any misunderstandings that your readers may have about this. As you know, the board of Borchester Land has already stated that Rob leaves us on good terms; the company is grateful to him for steering Berrow Farm through the flood and respects his decision to take on fresh challenges.
As his line manager, I would just like to add:
• There is no truth in the rumour that Rob flounced out because I was about to bring in a consultant to investigate his financial management.
• Rob didn’t make any veiled threats to reveal what he knows about my relationship with Adam Macy. And even if he did, there is absolutely nothing to reveal. Nothing at all.
• Rob is definitely not a manipulative, homophobic, vindictive bully and I am not scared of him, so there.
I wish Rob every success for the future and can confirm there will be no awkwardness when we next turn out for the Ambridge cricket team.  None at all.
Happy to set the record straight!
Yours truly,
Charlie Thomas.

High hopes for new bird at Hollowtree

Rex and Toby Fairbrother, purveyors of celebration poultry, are delighted to announce that they have a very special addition to their flock at Hollowtree Farm.
‘We’re raising a prize goose, and we’re calling her Pip,’ said a proud Toby. ‘She’s going to be a huge asset to this business, though she doesn’t know it. Can you believe, she actually thinks I value her experience, when I really just need the Archer name to sprinkle some farming stardust about when I meet customers?
‘Yes, Pip is shaping up nicely. I just can’t wait to pluck her at Christmas!’
(That’ll do. Ed)

Situation wanted

Experienced and capable grandmother seeks new family. Unexpectedly available after being made redundant from previous position.  Excellent housekeeper, proficient with casseroles, lemon drizzle cakes and Sunday roasts. Skilled with hens, bees and vegetable growing. I only need a small room, and wouldn’t be any trouble. You’ll hardly know I’m there. I can live anywhere. Even though I’ve just been turned out of my family home for my daughter-in-law’s mother who Isn’t Even An ARCHER! No, really, I’m fine.  Apply to: Jill Archer, c/o Brookfield Farm.

Italian without tears

In the first of a new series for the holiday season, Christine Barford has come up with some useful phrases for readers who are heading for ‘La Bella Italia’ this summer:

Zitto Jim.
Shut up Jim.

• No mi condiscendenza
Do not patronise me.

• È noioso vecchio pedante
You boring old pedant.

Non c'è niente di sbagliato con la mia pronuncia.
There is nothing wrong with my pronunciation.

Volete mangiare questo amaretti semi-freddo, o indossarlo?
Would you like to eat this amaretti semi-freddo, or wear it?

• Non me ne frega un lancio su Cosi Fan Tutte!
• I don’t give a toss about Cosi Fan Tutte!

 That’s enough Italian. Ed.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Doom for the shop, gloom for Kenton and room for Heather at Brookfield? A worrying week in Ambridge

Outraged villagers vow to save their shop

Shock waves ran through Ambridge this week (probably static from the new tabards. Ed) as plans were revealed to turn the village shop into upmarket apartments.
‘We never thought Hazel Woolley would stoop this low,’ said committee member Lynda Snell. ‘Where will older people find essential foodstuffs without the shop? This damned flood keeps grabbing at everything we hold dear!’
Fallon Rogers, who rents the upstairs flat, said she was ‘gutted’ by the news.
‘How dare she? I’m the only one around here who’s allowed to upcycle old tat and make money out of it!’ she said.
But postmistress and shop manager Susan Carter vowed to defeat the proposal.
‘The planners will not ride roughshod over our Parisienne Summer workwear!  Our name badges stand for independence and pride, even if Lynda’s was spelt wrong!’ she said.
‘My pink and orange Paisley army will lie down in front of the bulldozers if we have to. And once the Boudicca of Borsetshire hears about this, Hazel Woolley will disappear quicker than you can say ‘collapsible bread basket’, you mark my words.’

David and Ruth face the uncomfortable truth

Exhausted from a long night’s calving, David was alarmed when Ruth returned home from Prudhoe with her car full of Heather’s possessions. ‘These are me mum’s memories; they’re not to be left in the boot!’ she snapped, sweeping aside David’s toy farm as she set the boxes down.
But worse was to come for David, who is about to lose the über-capable Pip to the grassland campos and rain forests of High Wycombe (surely, Brazil? Ed). At the end of her tether with Heather, Ruth has decided the only option is to move her mother down to Brookfield.
‘But… love… you’re not a nurse – and where would Heather stay?’ stammered David, mentally running through the options: sharing a room with Bert, moving into the Fairbrothers’ caravan or setting up a camp bed in the calving shed.
‘This is my home, my life, my livelihood!’ Ruth helpfully reminded her husband.
‘But mum has gone from a neighbourhood and a house she loves, to a shared dining room and lounge, a single bedroom and a TV. It’s not home!’
Whether Heather would feel any more at home in Brookfield, where she would be pretty much confined to her room, being force-fed with Jill’s lemon drizzle cake, remains to be seen. But Ruth was not for turning.
‘What if it was your mother, and you were an only child?’ she yelled. ‘We’ve let her down once, and we’re not going to do it again!’

Cheesy secrets of a happy marriage

Ambridge Women’s Institute will be celebrating the centenary of the WI next month in style, with a Suffragette-themed dinner. But just how far have women come in the past 100 years? The Ambridge Observer asked Helen Titchener, retailer, cheese maker and thoroughly modern mum, for her thoughts:
• ‘I didn’t feel I was fully a woman until I married my wonderful husband, Rob. A fulfilling marriage (know what I mean, ladies?!) is the key to happiness.’
• ‘Now that I’ve changed my name and put all my money in Rob’s bank account, I feel I’m truly his at last. Love really is all you need!’
• ‘Marriage has liberated me. I can visit Rob at work whenever I like, as long as I phone first. And I’m free to patronise my unmarried friends, like Ian, who just needs to give himself completely to his partner (like I do every night… oh, sorry, naughty Helen over-sharing again!) for everything to be perfect!
• ‘My mum is a dear old radical feminist, but she doesn’t ‘get it’. Being a modern woman is all about putting your man first. And if he snaps at you and your child, resents you spending time with friends, and emotionally blackmails you about having a baby – that’s just because he wants you all to himself. For ever, and ever…’ (Not sure this strikes the right tone? Ed)

What should Jolene do with her drunken sailor?

The fact that he couldn’t blame David for the £26,000 bill to repair The Bull sent Kenton over the edge this week. Too hungover to attend his own birthday lunch, he bravely got Jolene to make his excuses to Shula and spent the rest of the week snarling and whining at customers like a junk-yard dog. Even mild-mannered Robert noticed, prompting Jolene to confide in Lynda: ‘I don’t know whether to tear him off a strip or send him to the doctor.’
Lynda recommended feng shui to a mystified Jolene, but Kenton had a different form of therapy in mind: he and Toby ‘Mephistopheles’ Fairbrother formed their own little Rat Pack and high-tailed it into Borchester. Next morning they woke to a squalid scene in the caravan, like a rehearsal for the Ambridge Christmas production of Withnail & I.
‘That was some session last night. Not bad for an old bloke,’ said Toby admiringly, handing Kenton a hair-of-the-dog can. But Kenton had decided against running away to sea and headed back to the dog house….

Health officials probe ‘smug hazard’

Environmental health officers were called to Grey Gables this week after local residents complained of an offensive cloud of smugness emanating from the hotel. The source was traced to the owners, Oliver and Caroline Sterling, who were planning their forthcoming trip to Tuscany.
‘It’s awful’, said a neighbour who didn’t wish to be named. ‘The way they’re sighing and salivating over sunken baths and summer houses sticks in your throat. And when they start practising their Italian you just want to throw up. The sooner they bugger off to Italy the better.’

Situations vacant

Forensic Accountant

Financial investigator required to assist on sensitive project. Must be familiar with dairy fertility data and herd management worksheets. Ability to rummage in filing cabinets without alerting the prime suspect an advantage. Experience in avoiding culverts essential. Apply in confidence to Charlie Thomas, Berrow Farm.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Kenton’s plans crash, Ruth has to dash and the newlyweds cash in… a week of mixed fortunes in Ambridge

A mercy mission for Ruth and David…

Brookfield was left in disarray at the end of this week as Ruth and David rushed north to rescue Heather, who had sprung herself from her interim care facility and headed for home, mainly to check that Ruth hadn’t yet sold it behind her back. Once there, she’d fallen and injured herself again, intensifying Ruth’s anguish: ‘If only I’d rung me mum this would never have happened!’ she wailed, improbably. But Ruth had been distracted by Pip’s good news: somehow she managed to get a 2:1 in her degree. ‘I’ll book a table at La Femme du Monde!’ said David, proud as punch. ‘No, Dad, you have to go with mum to GrannyHeather!’  insisted Pip, whose way is now clear for a few cans and weapons-grade flirting with Toby in the Fairbrothers’ new caravan….

… and birthday blues for Shula and Kenton

Meanwhile Jill had a much better week than Heather (not that this would be difficult). She decided to throw a party for Shula and Kenton’s milestone 57th birthday (is that a milestone? Ed), which Shula gamely offered to host. ‘You have so much going on Shula! The Stables, the church, the WI…’ Jill trilled, little knowing her daughter secretly dreams of being fed grapes by Richard Locke in a Provencal vineyard…
Soldier Dan is expected for the weekend, which will cheer Shula up. But whether Alistair turns up at the party remains to be seen, as he is always being called out to urgent business meetings from which no business, mysteriously, ever results…
Meanwhile, it took four strong women – Lizzie, Jolene, Shula and Jill – to persuade Kenton to attend his own party. But even though David and Ruth won’t be there, the birthday boy is likely to be more miserable than ever. The insurance company has refused to pay to shore up The Bull’s foundations, which were crumbling with damp for years before the flood. This means Kenton and Jolene’s plans for porticos, picture windows and posh nosh are in ruins, with a bill of £30,000-£50,000 to find first. And although Kenton hasn’t yet found a way to blame David for this, he probably will soon… 

10,000 more reasons why Rob married Helen

Rob is finding that marriage to Helen is turning out even better than he hoped. Although Henry is proving irritating by disrupting marital relations and playing too loudly with his boat, Helen’s gran Peggy has come up trumps with a super-generous £10,000 gift.
‘Oh look darling; it’s made out to Mr and Mrs Titchener!’ cooed Helen, as Rob whisked the cheque into his wallet and checked his secret supply of Tipp-Ex.
Things are less rosy on the work front though. With his forensic accountant’s hat on, Charlie has been combing through the dairy data to see where the profits have been leaking away. ‘I spend hours every week going through those figures!’ Rob growled. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ ‘We’re missing something, Rob. Shut the door on your way out, will you?’  was Charlie’s unsettling answer…

Summer fiction special: The Trials of Ian Craig

Chapter Four of our exclusive serial by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, in which chef Ian Craig sees his chance of happiness melt away… 

Ian woke and turned to Adam. ‘Morning mate! How’s your silly mid off?’ he giggled. ‘Didn’t we have a great time at Edgbaston?’
Adam frowned and threw the giant inflatable kangaroo that lay between them across the room. Shocked, Ian asked: ‘What’s up? Did I embarrass you in front of Charlie? I’m such a duffer about cricket.’
‘No, Ian, you were fine.’ Adam smiled that irresistible smile. ‘Everyone loved your practical joke with the Panama hat and the pavlova. No, it’s this thing with Brian.’
Ian seized his moment. ‘Well, that’s simple,’ he said. ‘Take Debbie’s offer of a job in Hungary. I’d easily find a kitchen, and you’d have more money, more security, and no Brian breathing down your neck.’ (Or Charlie Thomas, he thought to himself).
Adam bounded out of bed and headed for the shower. ‘This is our chance, Adam!’ Ian called after him, hope flaring like heartburn in his chest.


Later that evening the scene was set: the flat smelt deliciously of goulash and a bottle of Tokay was chilling in the fridge. ‘Hi Ian, I’m home!’ Adam came in and flung his cricket bag down. ‘We won by eight wickets. And guess what?’
Ian handed him a glass. Had he called Debbie? Was their new life assured? ‘I’ve been to see Brian. I’m accepting his share-farming offer.’ Ian’s world went dark, but he managed a smile. ‘Well, you certainly know how to surprise a fella!’
‘I know, but Charlie says, seize the day. Charlie says I’ll regret it if I go. Charlie says… Ian, where are you going?’
‘Just turning down the goulash!’ Ian rushed to the kitchenette, where he stuffed a tea towel in his mouth to stifle his bitter sobs…

To be continued…   

From the Message Boards

Our pick of what set the Ambridge online community buzzing this week:

• ‘So Helen Archer married Rob Titchener and couldn’t even pick up the phone to tell me! And I was going to be a maid of honour! I think it’s a bit rubbish.’ KeirasMummy.

• ‘No smoke without fire, I say. When people get married that quick, there’s usually a reason. Anyway, does anyone on here know where I can get some name badges and tabards personalised for the fantastic new village shop?’ Retail-is-Detail.  

• ‘Well you should know about shotgun weddings mum! LOL’ KeirasMummy.
[Please don’t make personal remarks. Moderator].

• ‘I think it’s romantic, just like when Chris and I went to Las Vegas. Five years ago now!’ AerospaceAlice.

• ‘Well, at least they didn’t marry at Lower Loxley and put money in my smelly sister’s pocket! I’m offering the happy couple a drink on the house (a 125ml glass house white and half of Shires. Terms and conditions apply.)’ KrazyKenton.
(That’s enough. Ed.)

Items for sale

• Wedding magazines, large collection. No longer needed. Free to a bride-to-be who's as happy as me. Apply: Helen Archer, Blossom Hill Cottage.
• Wedding hat, made of organic straw. Never worn. Apply: Pat Archer, Bridge Farm.
• Village pub, crumbling a bit and ruined by David Archer. Apply: The Bull, Ambridge.
• Male child, answers to Henry. Surplus to requirements. Top price urgently needed. Apply: R Titchener, Blossom Hill Cottage. (This is getting silly. Ed).

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Rob ties the knot, David’s in a spot and Charlie learns a lot… the plot thickens in Ambridge

‘Hungary shall not have my son!’ pledges the Boudicca of Borsetshire

One of Ambridge’s leading families was nearly torn apart this week as Jennifer Aldridge, who has already lost one child in a tragic case of ‘moving to Hungary’, vowed that her husband would not drive her son Adam there too.
‘I couldn’t bear it,’ she confided to her newly-retired brother Tony, who was idly reading a Farmers’ Weekly report on organic manure.  ‘Everyone thinks Adam’s herbal leys are an excellent idea, especially that nice Charlie who got on so well with Debbie. But Brian won’t have it, and says that if Adam goes ahead, it will have to be on a 60-40 share-farming basis. He won’t even be paying Adam a salary! Honestly, I wouldn’t blame Adam if he ups sticks and moves to Hungary. What do you think  Tony?’
‘Oh, I leave all the decisions to Tom and Helen these days,’ said Tony. ‘And Pat will be here soon to tell me what I’m having for lunch. What were you saying?’

Local dairyman and cricket hero marries

Rob Titchener, Ambridge’s match-winning all-rounder and manager at Berrow Farm, was married this week while on a mini-break to Ryde in the Isle of Wight.
The wedding was planned and arranged by Mr Titchener, who was also the best man, registrar, ring bearer and sole witness. The bride was given away by Mr Titchener. Mr Titchener also designed her full-length gown, in a fetching shade of hessian with a completely opaque sacking veil. Afterwards Mr Titchener drank a toast to the guests (none) and absent friends and family (everyone), and then allowed his bride to cook and serve his wedding breakfast. The bride, whose maiden name was Archer, will now be known as ‘the current Mrs Titchener’. The couple honeymooned in Ryde and will make their home anywhere Mr Titchener damn well chooses. 

Pip may not be fair game after all…

Jill was concerned this week that the Fairbrother boys have inherited the wicked charm of their father Robin, who led Elizabeth up the garden path. But Pip is proving resistant to Toby Fairbrother’s advances, even though he’s been pulling out all the stops with witty banter and his comedy car horn.
Although tempted to go with him to the Game Fair, she decided it would be more fun to spend some quality time with her mum, back home from Prudhoe for the weekend.
But Toby hasn’t given up on his bid to bed the Heiress of Brookfield. ‘You may not mean to break Pip’s heart, but you will,’ warned kindly Rex. ‘You walk through life leaving a trail of wreckage.’
‘You were born in the wrong century, bro,’ said Toby. ‘Pip’s been round the block a few times. I just want to show her a good time.’
But as Pip’s idea of a good time is writing a job description for the new contract milker (see below. Ed), Toby may need more than his pulling pants to win her heart… 

Summer fiction special: The Trials of Charlie Thomas

In Chapter Three of our exclusive serial by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, hero Charlie Thomas sees his hopes cruelly dashed once more…

‘You see, Charlie old chap, I can talk to you, man to man.’ Brian Aldridge’s faded blue eyes looked at him kindly over his glass of Old Silage finest malt. ‘You’ve got a business head on your shoulders, not like that feckless stepson of mine with his hippy-dippy weirdy-beardy greeny-beany ideas!’
Charlie felt torn. He hated to hear Brian speak of Adam like that, but at the same time he was flattered the old man confided in him. Almost like one of the family… for a moment he allowed himself to imagine himself and Adam standing at the altar, under a ceremonial arch of plaited maize…
His phone rang, and his heart leapt when he saw it was Adam calling. ‘Hi Charlie – I’d love to come to the Test Match with you!’ Could he believe his ears? He turned bright red and nearly choked on his Tom Archer pork scratching. But before he could say a word, Adam said: ‘And Ian would love to come too!’
‘But… but…’ he stammered. ‘I thought Ian hated cricket!’
‘Oh, he does… but you know Ian. Always up for free champagne and a poke round someone else’s kitchen! Must go – Ian’s got the omelettes on. But thanks Charlie!’ As he rang off, Charlie could hear Van Morrison’s ‘Have I told you lately that I love you?’ playing softly in the cosy flat at Grey Gables. ‘What’s up, old chap?’ Brian returned from the bar, munching a microwaved sausage roll. ‘You look as if you’ve lost a shilling and found a penny!’
Stupid old fool, thought Charlie. If only you knew… But Brian might still be his father-in-law one day… ‘To tell you the truth, Brian, I am a bit upset,’ he blurted out, blinking back tears. ‘It’s the fertility data at Berrow Farm… I think someone’s been fiddling it, and the evidence points to Rob Titchener…’ 
To be continued…. (This is more like it Lavinia! Ed).

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I wanted to warn any poultry-keepers among your readers of a dangerous gang of rustlers at large in Ambridge. Early one morning this week I was driving to work when a young woman waved me down in the lane. Then she and two male accomplices brazenly herded a large number of small birds (probably ducks) across the road in front of me and into a neighbouring field. I sounded my horn to alert the police but only received verbal abuse for my pains. I gave a statement to the Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Burns) and hope no one else falls victim to this distressing crime. Name and address withheld.

New menu at The Bull: the locals have their say

Ambridge’s favourite pub (don’t you mean ‘only pub’? Ed.) will soon be announcing a brand new menu, with many dishes chosen by The Bull’s regulars. ‘We’re confident that our fine dining experience will have something for everyone – except David Archer of course,’ said landlord Kenton Archer. Highlights of the menu include:
• frozen pizza a la mode de Ruth Archer
• roast Hollowtree goose with sauce for the gander
• grass-fed Hereford beef (while stocks last)
• vegan kale and quinoa quesadillas, garnished with yurt (yogurt? Ed)
Women’s Institute centenary jam sponge, with jam sauce and extra jam
• Freda Fry’s cottage pie (last few portions found in the freezer!)

Situations vacant

Brookfield Farm needs an extra pair of (non-wandering) hands!

Position: Contract milker, Brookfield Farm
Start date: End of August
Finish date: the minute I catch you eyeing up my wife, mate
Principal duties: Not making the boss feel insecure.
Required skills: Must be able to milk cows blindfolded when the owner’s wife is around. Being a eunuch desirable, but not essential. Must on no account be called Sam.
To apply: Send a photo to confirm that you are really ugly.
Interviews: Ruth Archer.
Final decision: David Archer.