Sunday, 24 April 2016

The hut is repaired, Pat is rebuffed and Rob regroups: a chilling week in Ambridge

‘Don’t stretch hospital resources,’ NHS warns

Borsetshire NHS Hospitals Trust has warned members of the public not to take ‘unnecessary risks’ that might cause injury this week, as the junior doctors’ strike will put A & E departments under added strain.
‘Just by exercising a little care, people could avoid a lengthy and painful stay on a trolley in Borchester  General,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘For example, this week a middle-aged couple from Ambridge had to have splinters removed from – well, shall we say it was a delicate process – after claiming the daybed in their shepherd’s hut had collapsed.
‘And on Thursday, paramedics had to be called to Underwoods’ furniture department to rescue an elderly chap who’d trapped a nerve bouncing on a waterbed. It was quite a challenging scene, as his female companion refused to co-operate, yelling: “You can’t take Justin to hospital darling; I haven’t spent all his money yet!”
‘We like to see older members of the community enjoying life but please do think of the potential impact on the NHS,’ said the spokeswoman. 

Hall to support Villa instead of Palace

An Ambridge garden is to raise funds for a failing football club after its owner had a change of heart.
‘I had planned my ‘Resurgam’ garden as a tribute to the spirit of Ambridge since the flood, and in honour of HM The Queen’s birthday,’ said Mrs Lynda Snell of Ambridge Hall.
‘But frankly, after Eddie Grundy made such a mess of my shepherd’s hut, I was ready to scrap the whole idea. Luckily, young Josh Archer came up with the answer! He’s a real marketing dynamo, that boy, did you know? So when he pointed out the obvious similarities between my shepherd’s hut and his football club, Aston Villa, I was seduced by his vision.
‘Shoddy materials, poor planning and shocking execution – the hut is a perfect symbol of Aston Villa’s terrible season, and its tragic relegation from the Premiership,’ said Mrs Snell. ‘And as I understand that Aston Villa has ditched its famous motto, ‘Prepared’, from its badge, what could be more fitting than to replace it with 'Resurgam’ – I will rise again”?
‘To cap it all, Prince William is a Villa fan so my garden will retain its Royal credentials. All it needs is a few claret and blue pansies and Josh has promised me it will go viral!’

Try our St George’s Day quiz

Following this week’s ‘England’s Green and Pleasant’ quiz at The Bull, The Ambridge Observer has gone hyper-local to test your knowledge of Ambridge. No prizes: just for fun!

Q1 Who wore the dragon costume for the St George's Day quiz ?

A Barry Simmons, with exploding crisp packet sound effects
B Lynda Snell – no costume required   
C Kenton Archer, under protest

Q2 Who stole the St Stephen’s Lent appeal money?

A Anneka Rice
B Sabrina Thwaite, to fund her Botox habit
C George Grundy, who’s been spending like a sailor

Q3 What is a ‘no-till’ farming strategy’?

A Lilian’s favourite shopping style: just charge it to Justin, darling
B A technical term for the Bridge Farm shop being closed
C Sowing one crop on top of another: Adam’s latest low-tech idea

Q4 How does Tom Archer like to be distracted?

A Devising sausage recipes with Maurice
B Planning the next pageant with Lynda
C Discussing mob-grazing at Home Farm with Pip

Q5 How did Elizabeth Pargetter celebrate her 49th birthday?

A A walkabout round Lower Loxley dressed as ‘Queen Elizabeth’,
whose birthday she shares
B A romantic meal with Doctor Locke
C A jolly family dinner catered by Emma and Fallon

Q6 What military skill is Dan Hebden-Lloyd practising in France?

A Tank driving
B Battlefield strategy
C PowerPointTM presentations

How did you get on?

In each case the right answer is ‘C’. If you scored top marks, have you thought of getting out more?

SPRING FICTION SPECIAL: The Trials of Rob Titchener

In the latest chapter of our romantic saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero finds the tears come all too readily…

‘I wasn’t asleep, Pat.’ How could the stupid woman think that? He’d been lying awake, fighting the morphine clouds in his head, planning for just this moment. He didn’t want to see her, biting her lips, pity in her eyes – or Tony, hanging back with a punnet of grapes. At least they wouldn’t be Bridge Farm scabby organic ones. But he had to face them, or he wouldn’t see… ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ Yes, here was Henry, scrambling up the bed, heedless of his drips and drains.  God, a week at Bridge Farm and he was a hooligan again. ‘Henry! Have you missed me?’ He forced his cracked lips into a big, warm smile. ‘Lots and lots and lots!’ the little boy piped up. ‘Granddad, can I have a hot chocolate now?’ Typical. They’d been spoiling him rotten. But it seemed they hadn’t been pouring poison into his little ears. He watched Tony and Henry leave the ward; the boy seemed happy enough. But why was Pat still here?


‘So how have you been, Rob?’ If he’d been strong enough, he would have leapt out of bed and strangled her. ‘Um, well you know, apart from my severed artery, collapsed lung, perforated bowel and life-threatening infection… not too bad. Heh heh.’  Pat’s face crumpled. Please God, don’t let her start snivelling. ‘I’m so, so sorry Rob,’ she said. ‘I just wondered if you had a message for… for Helen?’ Jesus. Why hadn’t his blood pressure monitor exploded? To hide his murderous rage, he shut his eyes and began to sob noisily. On cue, his mother piped up. ‘Don’t you think you’ve done enough, Pat? It’s lucky your daughter isn’t facing a murder charge. You’ve brought the boy here; next time, he can come with me. Now you’ve completed your little mission of mercy, you can go.’
Pat’s hand flew to her mouth, and she practically ran from the ward. If he never saw her again, it would be too soon. Ursula fussed round him. ‘Now, darling, are you sure you won’t try one of your father’s Wilbur Smiths?’  He fell back on his pillows, pressing his morphine pump once more…


‘You really will have to tell me what happened on the night in question, Mr Titchener.’ DS Madeley, in her chain store trouser suit and no make-up, was looking at him too coolly for his liking. Hadn’t he spent the last ten minutes carefully setting the scene, explaining how Helen was unstable, unpredictable, needy – a danger to herself and Henry? Hadn’t he cleverly implicated that cow Kirsty, by implying an emotional relationship between her and Helen? He stabbed a finger at DS Madeley’s notebook. ‘Look, you know about the anorexia, the ex’s suicide, the antidepressants, right?’
She snapped it shut. ‘I believe you did say something, yes. But now you need to sign your statement.’ She handed him the pen. No going back now on this story he’d told. ‘It’s just… all I did was love her!’ He managed to swallow his words in a storm of sobbing. ‘It’s OK. Have one of these.’ As she passed him a tissue, he kept his face buried in his hands. But to his great relief, he heard her tone soften…  Good. Maybe this woman was as dumb as all the rest after all…

To be continued…    

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Helen says nothing, Jazzer says too much and Peggy joins #teamRob : a week of shock waves in Ambridge

Reporting clampdown on Blossom Hill Cottage tragedy

Legal proceedings continue in the case of Rob Titchener, who was stabbed at Blossom Hill Cottage on April 4. The Ambridge Observer understands that he has regained consciousness and that his first words to a nurse were: ‘Tie your hair back, there’s a good girl.’
Now that a 37-year-old woman has been charged with attempted murder, the matter is sub judice so we are legally prevented from publishing any details that might prejudice the jury, such as:

• Hot-shot barrister Anna Tregorran, who specialises in women’s issues, has agreed to take on Helen Titchener’s defence. Jill Archer remembered Anna is Carol’s daughter and her god-daughter, which was lucky.
• Kirsty Miller was shocked to learn she is a prosecution witness as she was first on the crime scene.
• Helen is refusing to let her parents visit her in prison, which is distressing Pat greatly as the flask of soup she’s made is going cold.
• Helen’s son Henry has not returned to school as he is having tantrums and nightmares about wicked witches and big bad wolves. His grandparents, Pat and Tony, can’t imagine why.
• Helen’s supporters have launched a ‘Free the Blossom Hill One’ charity appeal

We will also not be publishing any photos of Helen looking like a deranged harpy in Blithe Spirit (see p4), or Rob and Henry playing happy families (see p8).
Contempt of court is a serious criminal offence, carrying a prison sentence of up to two years. We ask for readers’ understanding in this matter as the Editor has no wish to end up sharing a cell with Helen. 

Fledgling brand cracks Ambridge egg empire

Ambridge’s egg entrepreneurs were at war this week as Josh Archer was accused of ‘betrayal’ by his business partner Neil Carter.
‘I couldn’t believe it when Susan told me Josh was promoting the Fairbrothers’ pastured eggs,’ said Mr Carter. ‘In fact, I nearly choked on the free samples Susan had just served me. Josh reckons they’re targeting a different market, but eggs is eggs: you can only eat so many. Even I can’t eat more than three for breakfast. Not if I want to leave room for Susan’s chilli.’ (What’s this? Ed).
Mr Carter said he was also unhappy that Justin Elliott of Damara Capital is  underwriting the Fairbrothers’ venture. He said he has told Mr Archer that he will end their partnership if he doesn’t stop working with a direct rival.
‘I’m sure Josh knows what he’s doing; he’s a real marketing dynamo, that boy!’ said his grandmother Jill Archer. ‘With the Borsetshire Food and Drink Awards coming up, he’s going to enter the Fairbrothers’ eggs. And now that Helen won’t be entering her Borsetshire Blue, there’ll be less competition!’
Mr Archer said he was too busy with his A-level homework to comment.

From the message boards: Ambridge reacts to Blossom Hill Cottage attack

Please note, sub judice rules also apply to online comments. Anyone posting on these boards about the stabbing risks contempt of court proceedings. You have been warned!

• I’m totally gutted about what happened to Rob.  It’s really messed up my plans to ask Tony if I can borrow some of his cows to graze at Home Farm. Some people are so selfish! MattsMilkMaid.
• Not as gutted as Rob though, eh hen? If I was Helen, I’d have gone for something less messy, like arsenic in his Irn-Bru. BorsetshireBraveheart.
• Don’t be a prat Jazzer. You’ve already lost your job and your home. Or do you want Tom to punch you again? MsMiller.
• I’m no apologising. All I said was, if Helen was a normal woman she’d walk out the door not grab a knife. BorsetshireBraveheart.
Can we just remember in all this that other people have problems too? I had to call out Alistair this week when one of our cows had a twisted uterus. DairyDave.
• Yes, exactly David. Have you SEEN the monstrosity of a ‘chimney’ that Eddie Grundy’s put on my shepherd’s hut? It’s hideous, huge and shiny – and I’m not paying a penny until he’s fixed it. Lyndybot. 
• Hey guys, back on topic! What was that fancy limousine that turned up at Blossom Hill Cottage? Welljel
• It was the limousine Rob had ordered to whisk Helen away for a luxury birthday weekend. How could anyone think he doesn’t love and cherish his wife? Peggybank.
Well, you never know with men. One minute they’re fine, the next they turn out to be lying, cheating, thieving….. oops! Not you Justin darling, obviously. Ha ha ha ha ha. Lilntonic.

Borsetshire salutes Businesswomen of the Year

Our society correspondent Lilian Bellamy writes: ‘The glitterati of Borsetshire gathered at the Feathers Hotel this week for the Damara Capital Businesswoman of the Year Awards, sponsored by Damara Capital and its visionary, charming chairman Justin Elliott.
We ladies showed that we can combine brains, business acumen and glamour (especially yours truly, thanks to my generous clothing allowance from Justin). Even Sheila and Shona Sheeney, of Scaffolding Sisters, scrubbed up well, although all that outdoor work plays havoc with the complexion. And of course little Emma Grundy did her best. It’s remarkable what you can get from charity shops these days. Emma and Dr Richard Locke had stepped in for Helen Titchener and her mother Pat Archer, who couldn’t attend on account of Helen having stabbed her husband the week before.
After a delicious seven-course lunch, photographers flocked to picture Justin in his elegant Savile Row suit as he expertly presented the Awards. The deserving winner was Leila Brodie, with her inspiring story of success ‘from kitchen table to canapé queen’. And runner-up was the delightful Elizabeth Pargetter, who has turned Lower Loxley from a shabby old pile into THE destination venue for conferences, weddings and festivals.
Toasting the winners in Damara Capital Cava, Justin Elliott said: ‘If I’d known it was this easy to have gorgeous ladies hanging on my every word, I’d have sponsored the awards years ago. Ding dong!’ 

Clarifications and corrections

In our crime serial “The Case Files of Maverick Madeley” last week, author Luther Gumshoe described Blossom Hill Cottage as ‘so sweet, you could get diabetes just looking at it.’ We have been asked by CotswoldToursAreUs to clarify that you can’t get diabetes from looking at a cottage. In fact, even if it was a gingerbread cottage covered in icing sugar and you ate all of it, you wouldn’t get diabetes. Mr Gumshoe comments: ‘Unfortunately, this lazy cliché is typical of DS Madeley’s thinking, which bodes ill for Helen. But the good news is there is no need to cancel your trip to Stow-on-the-Wold!’ We are happy to make this clear.  

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Bloody scenes at Blossom Hill Cottage: the week that changed Ambridge forever

Titchener fights for life as wife is charged with attempted murder

Rob Titchener of Blossom Hill Cottage, who was injured in a knife attack at his home last Sunday, was said to be ‘critical’ as the Ambridge Observer went to press.
‘Mr Titchener has undergone two operations to repair his ruptured bowel, but the colostomy procedure unfortunately resulted in a life-threatening infection,’ said surgeon Mr Will Cutmore of Felpersham Hospital. 
‘Of course, you could argue that being critical was what got Mr Titchener into this mess in the first place,’ said Mr Cutmore. ‘But that would be unprofessional of me.’
Mr Titchener’s parents said they were ‘shocked, but not surprised’ that their daughter-in-law Helen Titchener had been charged with the attempted murder of their son. ‘I knew from the first moment I saw her she was dangerous,’ said Mrs Ursula Titchener. ‘I asked Rob’s dad, Bruce, for permission to speak and I told him so. But he barked at me that I was being a stupid, hysterical cow as usual. How anyone could accuse any son of Bruce’s of being an abusive bully, I have no idea.’
Mrs Helen Titchener will appear at Felpersham Crown Court for a plea and preparation hearing on May 5. There was no application for bail and she was remanded in custody. Her son Henry, five, is being cared for by his grandparents, Pat and Tony Archer, at Bridge Farm. They said: ‘We have absolutely no idea what’s going on but it’s all terribly upsetting.’

Attack sees Ambridge in eye of media storm

Ambridge found itself at the centre of a media frenzy this week as reporters descended on the village following the near-fatal attack on well-known local resident Rob Titchener.
‘It’s intrusive, but we all have a duty to support a free press,’ said Mrs Susan Carter of Ambridge View. ‘And having spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure myself, I can give journalists a real insight into what poor Helen must be going through. Of course, I was in a low-security prison; I didn’t mix with women who tried to kill their husbands, like she did. As I said to PC Burns, we all know about her ex committing suicide and her eating disorder. I reckon that’s what pushed her over the edge.
‘But I’ve been ever so discreet with the press. ‘Local flood hero stabbed’ – that was my headline in the Courier, that was. I’ve kept a couple of copies for the grandchildren.’
‘These journalists are scum,’ said Ms Fallon Rogers of the Ambridge Tea Room. ‘They have the nerve to come in here, eat a full English breakfast, pay for it, leave a large tip, and then ask questions like ‘Where is the nearest cashpoint?’ They should be run out of town.’
• As the newspaper ‘on the ground’, the Ambridge Observer is happy to support visiting media. Desk space is available at a very reasonable £100 per hour (plus extra for wi-fi and sandwiches) and staff can supply contact details of chatty local characters, such as Sabrina Thwaite, Hilary Noakes and Barry Simmons. Email

‘No serial killer on loose’, police claim

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) reassured residents that a repeat of this week’s violent assault at Blossom Hill Cottage was ‘highly unlikely’.
‘As far as we know, there is no link between this event and the recent crime wave in Ambridge,’ he told a packed press conference.
‘We have been unlucky lately, with burglaries at Woodbine Cottage and Glebe Cottage, arson attacks at Hollowtree and Grange Farm, the theft of Mr Ed Grundy’s bullocks and the St Stephen’s Lent Appeal money, and of course the notorious Village Green Bunting Heist,’ said PC Burns. ‘But now that DS Joanne Madeley and her crack team from Borsetshire CID are on the case, I’m sure that we will not only find out what happened to Mr Rob Titchener, but also tidy up my ‘Unsolveds’ folder in no time. ‘
PC Burns stressed he was playing an important role in the investigation. ‘I now know exactly how DS Madeley likes her coffee, and I got Susan to stock her favourite brand of cigars at the shop,’ he said. ‘It’s at times like this that local community policing really comes into its own.’

NEW! Spring Fiction Special: The Case Files of Maverick Madeley*

In the first chapter of our dark new serial by crime writer Luther Gumshoe, author of the acclaimed ‘Gone Girl on the Bus’, our heroine DS Jo Madeley is called to a shocking case… 

Wiping the sweat from her eyes, Jo Madeley fished her phone out of her tracksuit. Her daily 10k through Felpersham’s mean, cold streets was hard. But it was the only way she could outrun her demons. She answered the call and sparked up her tenth cigar of the day. ‘Yeah Bill, what we got?’  ‘You better come quick boss, it’s bad. Ambridge. Blossom Hill Cottage.’
‘Copy that.’ Five minutes for a cold shower and a bitter, black coffee and she’d be on the road. Another invite to plumb the depths of human misery, and she would always RSVP…  


‘I need you to stand up for me and hold your hands out in front of you, Helen.’ She took no pleasure in cuffing a heavily pregnant, hysterical woman. But Jeez, it was carnage. The victim, a Rob Titchener, lay in the kitchen, bleeding out into a lake of custard. Doc Sharma said the perp had done a real good job on him. And there was a little kid – Harry? Henry? – who must have seen the whole thing.
‘OK Harvey, take her downtown.’  ‘Um, it’s Harrison actually, Sarge. PC Burns. Do you mean Borchester police station?’ Sobbing for her little boy, Helen Titchener was led away for questioning. Jo’s detective nose led her back to the crime scene. Blossom Hill Cottage. So sweet, you could get diabetes just looking at it.  But underneath there was a rotten stink. And it wasn’t tuna bake or burnt fruit pie…


‘Rob drove her to it… he belittled Helen, drove her mad – made her doubt her own sanity!’ Kirsty Miller seemed on the level. But Jo knew the mousy-looking ones could be the worst. The PNC showed Miller had form. Vandalising GM crops – with Helen’s brother Tom. Was that coincidence? What was with the burner phone she’d given Helen? How come she was so quick on the crime scene? Was this Thelma and Louise, Ambridge style? So many questions. And the only answers they had so far put Helen right in the frame. Over two fingers of single malt, no ice, in the Coppers’ Arms, Jo told DCs Reed and Sharples what she’d just told the perp’s brief.  ‘Forensics, her little kid, her ma-in-law – they all say the same thing,’ she said. ‘We’ve no option. Attempted murder. Why? Leave that to the judge. And let’s hope her waters don’t break in the prison van.’ Sometimes this job was tough. But she was tougher…
To be continued….

Ambridge Cricket Club: come to nets!

After its very successful 2015 season, Ambridge Cricket Club starts summer training this week. The unexpected absence of Thomas C and Titchener R means we are looking for a mediocre but principled slow bowler and a cheating, homophobic bully who unfortunately is also a match-winning all-rounder. Email for details.

*Lavinia Catwater is temporarily indisposed.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Anneka drops in, Dorothy turns up and Jess speaks out: a momentous week in Ambridge

Lent appeal cash theft: star suspected

Joy at the re-opening of Ambridge Village Hall turned to shock on Easter Monday at the news that a heartless thief had stolen £400 from the St Stephen’s Lent appeal fund.
‘We must forgive, as it’s Easter,’ said Rev Alan Franks. ‘But I’m afraid it looks like curtains for the stage curtains.’
Eddie Grundy of Grange Farm denied that any connection of his was responsible for the theft. ‘It’s true I arranged for TV star Anneka Rice, of Challenge Anneka and Treasure Hunt fame, to cut the ribbon,’ he said. ‘But I can’t believe she would do such a thing. And there’s nowhere to hide £400 cash in that jumpsuit she wears, if you know what I mean lads!’ 
‘It’s a disaster,’ said Mrs Lynda Snell. ‘And to think I’d even swallowed my pride to invite Jean Harvey when Anneka Rice turned up. Jean might be an insufferable diva, but she’s no thief!’
• When contacted by The Ambridge Observer, Ms Rice said she was devastated that her visit to Ambridge, her first since 1993, had been marred by crime. ‘If I were you, I’d be interviewing Eddie’s brother Alf,’ she said. ‘He asked if he could hitch a ride on my helicopter, as he needed to “nip off sharpish”. I wondered why he had a biscuit tin under his arm.’ 

Pageant inspires new venture for Elliott

Damara Capital’s latest enterprise in Borsetshire is a resort hotel that will stage regular plays starring its chairman, Justin Elliott, we can exclusively reveal. ‘I’d always dreamed of a life on the stage, but somehow, becoming an unscrupulous billionaire got in the way,’ said Mr Elliott. ‘But appearing as Squire Jeremiah in Lynda Snell’s pageant, ‘England’s Pleasant Land’, opened the floodgates. When I strode onstage and spoke EM Forster’s immortal lines: “I’ve not come to live in the village, what do I care? I’ve come to develop it, there’s money here”, somehow I felt I’d come home.’
Mrs Lilian Bellamy, Mr Elliott’s social secretary, said she was delighted but not surprised by the news. ‘I’ve always known Justin was a complete artist,’ she said. ‘I can’t wait to introduce him to some charming ingénues to co-star in his productions.’

From the AmMums message boards…

• Hey mums, anyone lost a brown and white fluffy toy rabbit? Looks nearly new; just a few chocolate stains and a chewed ear. Found it in the lane near Blossom Hill Cottage. GemmaH

• Oh, bless you, Gem, I bet some poor princess or little man is sobbing their heart out over it. Come to think, I reckon Henry Titchener had a toy rabbit at Bridge Farm at Easter; he wouldn’t let go of it to stroke the piglet! Mrs Woolley said it was girly, but I thought it was sweet. Although when my George was little, you couldn’t get him out of the pig-sty. MummyEmma

• Newsflash mums: I took the rabbit round to Blossom Hill Cottage, and that Rob Titchener said it was Henry’s but he didn’t need it any more and shut the door in my face! WTF? Who does he think he is? All he does is stack shelves at Bridge Farm (ooh, sorry Em, the tea room is lush). GemmaH

• None taken hun! I’ll mention it to Henry’s mum. She’s been looking proper peaky lately.  MummyEmma

Excuse me you two, that’s my wonderful son-in-law Rob you’re talking about! Let me tell you, Helen and Henry are very lucky to have him. She’s a complicated young woman you know; not easy at all. I’m sure if Rob told you Henry didn’t need his toy rabbit, it was probably because Rob had bought him a better one. He’s like that; so thoughtful. PatOrganic

• Sorry Pat! And I know what you mean about Helen. Running off to get married and not having proper bridesmaids, like she promised me. Tricky. MummyEmma

Hello mums, can I share some good news? My son brought his girlfriend Dorothy for supper this week, and she’s a delight! She works for the NHS, doesn’t drink, calls me ‘Mrs Hebden-Lloyd’ and her eyes don’t glaze over when Alistair’s talking! She’s beautiful, polite and insisted on separate beds when she stayed the night – such a relief, as I don’t like to think of Dan… well, you know. Do you think God is rewarding me for giving up alcohol for Lent? SoldierDansmum.

• Oh, get over yourself Shula. She sounds really boring. MummyEmma.

Yeah, what Em said. Gemma.

Hey guys, know this is off-topic, but can I tell you about the hil-ar-i-ous April Fool Bert played on Toby Fairbrother? With the stock cube in the shower head? LMAO, ROFL, LOLZ (is that right)? BabeRuth

That’s more than enough AmMums. Ed.

The Trials of Jess Titchener

In the latest chapter of our romantic saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine digs deep to share some devastating truths…

Jess shivered as she stepped off the train at Felpersham Station, and pulled her new Boden jacket round her. Even being in Borsetshire was enough to bring back painful memories. Why had she come, anyway? What did she owe Helen Archer? She’d not given a thought to Jess’s feelings when she was sleeping with Rob. But there was something in Helen’s voice as she’d asked to meet up… ‘Jess!’ A heavily pregnant woman was walking towards her. Could it be…? The Helen she remembered was brisk, energetic, smart. This woman was hesitant, washed-out, untidy. ‘Hello Jess; how are you? Nice jacket!’ Helen's manner was as irritating as ever, but her face was thinner, her eyes ringed with dark shadows. Suddenly, Jess knew why she was here…


Talking to Helen, Jess barely recognised the woman who’d breezed about Ambridge with her cheese, her organic veg and her perfect little boy, completely at home in a village where Jess still felt like a gauche stranger. Now, with Helen twisting her hands and looking round nervously, Jess knew they had plenty in common – none of it good. ‘Has he hurt you?’ The tears started in Helen’s eyes and Jess knew the answer. ‘He only slapped me once, and it was my fault… and now he’s started on Henry…’  ‘Oh, Helen.’ Before meeting her, Jess had toyed with the idea of reassuring her about Rob, about leaving her to lie in the bed she’d made.  But the thought of Ethan, her own baby, at Rob’s mercy banished any idea of revenge from her mind…


Their talk hadn’t lasted long; Helen didn’t want her mother to start asking awkward questions. As the train rattled back to Birmingham, Jess wondered what Helen would do. Would she take her advice to leave while she still had the strength? After all, she probably wouldn’t have been able to end her own marriage if Helen hadn’t done the job for her. She flicked through the photos of Ethan on her phone. At one time, she’d longed for her son to have Rob’s features. Now, she was thankful there was no trace of that man’s DNA in her child. She’d told Helen Rob was a monster. But would Helen act? I’ve done what I can, she thought, unwrapping a chocolate bar and taking out her copy of Hello Magazine… To be continued…