Sunday, 14 February 2016

Rex loses out, Bert looks back and Rob closes in: a troubling week in Ambridge

Pancakes fall flat at The Bull

There were dramatic scenes at The Bull this week as new chef Zoe Waffle-Iron walked out in the middle of service during the busy ‘Flipping Pancakes’ event.
Landlady Jolene Archer had to take over in the kitchen while diners waited for up to an hour for pancakes with a range of special toppings.  
‘I’ve no idea what happened,’ said Brian Aldridge of Home Farm. ‘I merely went to enquire about our order in the kitchen. All I said to the young woman was: ‘How’s about a bit of Mexican Hot Stuff?’ and she began to cry. Then when I asked if she’d seen my Cheeky Banana with extra cream, she threw her apron at me and ran screaming from the kitchen! Extraordinary!’

Nightmare for Damara Dream

The spring meeting at Felpersham Racecourse was mired in controversy this week as a runner was found to be ineligible to race.
Damara Dream, a filly part-owned by local business mogul Justin Elliott, came third in the Darrington Wholefoods Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, but stewards later found she is a three-year-old. Under National Hunt rules, three-year-olds do not race this early in the year.
 ‘My trainer must have taken his eye off the paperwork,’ said an embarrassed Mr Elliott. ‘But to be honest, I’ve also been preoccupied. I’m aiming to ease myself into the local community, starting with the lovely Mrs Lilian Bellamy, who has graciously agreed to be my social secretary on a strictly informal but generously remunerated basis.’
Mrs Bellamy could not be contacted for comment as she was ‘out shopping’, according to a spokesperson.

The Trials of Rex Fairbrother

In the latest chapter of our Winter Fiction Special, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero faces a bitter-sweet Valentine’s Day…

Wincing, Rex opened a packet of paracetamol. Oh, why did he always let Toby lead him astray? A night of Jågerbombs at the rugby club was no preparation for a hard day’s egg marketing. ‘Yo, bro!’ The caravan door was kicked open; Toby bounced in and drop-kicked a pack of bacon at him. ‘I say, that totty at the health club – Christie? Trixie? Kirsty, that’s it! Saw her in the shop. She can give me a massage any time… Oh, what’s up Rexy? Afraid you’ll be all on your ownio on Valentine’s Day?’
Before he could move, Toby had him in a playful head-lock. ‘Listen bro, I told you; get in there with young Pip. Her thing with Matthew the Magic Milk Man will go nipples aloft soon enough!’
Rex struggled free. ‘But I thought you liked her…’
‘Na, not Miss Frosty Pants,’ said Toby, ripping open the bacon. ‘Be my guest – and remember, she comes with a farm attached!’
Oh, if only Toby knew that Rex would happily be Pip’s Valentine, even with nothing but the dung-stained overalls she stood up in! But she was Matthew’s now, and even if Toby had the morals of an alley cat, Rex would not play the cad…


His heart as heavy as the pile of leaden pancakes he’d eaten at The Bull last night, Rex trudged into the yard at Brookfield. He’d only gone to Flipping Pancakes in case Pip was there, but instead he’d spent the evening bribing the Button sisters not to put mustard on Ruth’s salted caramel crepes.
He looked around, hoping to see Bert Fry, when a voice from the lambing shed made his heart leap. ‘Come on; this one’s yours, you stupid old thing!’ He peered in and gazed at Pip, her hair falling onto her face as she knelt over a bloody lamb. Her heady fragrance of disinfectant and sheep poo filled his nostrils and he knew it was love.
‘Oh, hi Rex!’ She looked up with that devastating smile. It was now or never. ‘Hi, Pip,’ he faltered. ‘I missed you at The Bull last night… I just thought, you know, if you ever wanted to go for a drink, you know, to chat…’  His voice tailed away. It was hopeless. How could he compete with Matthew, master of the five-step Dutch foot-paring method?
But what was this? Pip was nodding! ‘OK, Rex yeah,’ she said. ‘Good idea. See you at eight in The Bull?’
Rex was elated. The next four hours he spent explaining his plans for a mobile henhouse to Bert Fry passed in seconds. Soon, soon he would have Pip all to himself…


‘Look, here’s the selfie Matthew and I took in the bedroom at Dorset. And look – here’s where we knocked the lamp over. Did I tell you how he hogged the duvet all night?’ Rex’s heart was breaking. Pip was so beautiful, her eyes sparkling and her face so close to his as she showed him her photos for the seventh time.
‘Yes, Pip, you did. Hilarious,’ he smiled dutifully. But something in his expression must have betrayed him, because Pip frowned and patted his hand.
‘Oh, poor Rex. Here’s me, going on and on about Matthew… let’s talk about you.’
She put down her pint of Shires and looked soulfully at him. ‘Tell me…’ Rex could hardly breathe. Was this his chance to declare his feelings?
‘Tell me Rex, what do you really think of Matthew?’ she said. ‘You’re such a good mate. Do you think he’s as wonderful as I do?’
All at once, Rex felt his dreams shatter as fatally as one of Barry’s exploding crisp packets...

My Week, by Rob Titchener

In our new series profiling readers who have interesting jobs, we talk to Rob Titchener, former manager of Berrow Farm, who is now linchpin of the new Bridge Farm shop.


I usually work on Sundays – no peace for the wicked in retail! – but today I had a much more important job: looking after my darling wife Helen, who’s expecting my baby. She’s been a very silly girl – gone and made herself anaemic by not eating. What was she thinking, little Miss Airhead? Of course, I had to lay down the law. No visitors, no phone calls – especially from that drama-addicted witch, Kirsty. And constant vigilance. If I have to force-feed her to keep our baby healthy I will. Never let it be said Rob Titchener doesn’t take care of his family!


With Helen home from hospital, I was back running the shop today. Honestly, you can’t turn your back on my-laws for a minute. Anyone would think they owned the place! Do you know, Tom Archer actually wants to sell the sausages he makes in the shop? I told him straight: Tom, we want discerning foodies in here, not people like your friends the Fairbrothers who are only eating your disgusting black pudding Scotch eggs for a bet. Helen and I are job-sharing at the shop now, except of course I’m not allowing her to go back to work, so I’ll be covering her shifts too. With brothers like Tom, she’s better off without family anyway.


I’m not one to boast, but under my leadership I’m confident we’re making the  Bridge Farm shop into a profitable business. My mother-in-law Pat thinks so anyway; she’s happy to leave everything to me, including Helen. Sensible woman. Half-term is bound to be busy so I’ll be working hard, but I’ve invited my mother Ursula to stay, to help Helen with Henry. My wife is so lucky; she won’t be left alone for a single minute.  And once Henry and I have had one of our special talks, he’ll understand exactly what ‘obedient’ means, so he won’t be any trouble either. You all have to pitch in with a family business, don’t you?

Poetry Corner

Many thanks to Bert Fry of Brookfield, who has sent us this poignant poem.

Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day it’s nearly a year
Since the flood took away my Freda dear.
It was always a special day for us,
Though she didn’t usually like a fuss

She always loved the flowers I’d grow
To cheer up our little bungalow.
‘Bert’ she’d say, ‘I love your posies
More than any shop-bought roses.’

‘No sweeter bloom than you,’ I’d say –
The same thing every Valentine’s Day.
But this year I’ll be on my own,
And not yet back in our former home.

Mrs Jill Archer knows how I feel;
‘Twas just the same with her and Phil.
She found his card for Valentine’s Day,
Some time after he’d passed away.

But there’s no point getting in a tizzy;
I count my blessings and keep busy,
And though my Freda’s no longer here
I’ll still grow flowers for her every year.


  1. Aaaah. One of Bert's poems. A good one! 💕

    1. Those little blobs at the end should have been pink hearts. Never mind. Thank you for this week's Observer Christine.

  2. I'm quitting listening and just reading this from now on, I think. Much more entertaining.

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  4. Marvellous! A lot more fun than the original