Sunday, 31 July 2016

Fete on the brink, Shula in turmoil and the egg empire cracks: a crisis week in Ambridge

City star to open Ambridge fete

Brazilian football royalty descends on Ambridge on Sunday, as Felpersham City central defender Benny Carvalho is set to add some Rio glamour to Ambridge’s Olympics-themed fete.
‘People said we wouldn’t be able to make a success of the fete once Lynda Snell resigned from the committee,’ said Fallon Rogers. ‘But with Benny showing us his silky skills, we’ll soon have the whole of Ambridge in carnival mood! I’ve just got to sort out the parking. And the road closures. And the pop-up tea tent. And Dunk-the-Vicar. And the bran tub. And sweet-talk Jean Harvey into doing Guess the Jelly Babies. OMG, where’s my clipboard? Sorry, got to go…’
Villagers said they were delighted that a celebrity would be opening the fete. ‘Benny Hill? Oooh, I like him. But isn’t he dead though?’ said Gemma Hawkins.

Legal eagles swoop on ElfWorld

A local tourist attraction faces ruin by Hollywood moguls who have threatened to sue the owners for trademark infringement.
Lawyers representing The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and The Lion King franchises all claim that ElfWorld, recently set up in Grundys Field, has stolen their ideas for profit.
‘It’s outrageous!’ said Eddie Grundy. ‘I don’t deny that Dad has taken inspiration from fantasy classics of the silver screen. He’s 94; you can’t expect him to make up his own stories.
‘But where are all these profits supposed to come from? Today’s takings were 98p and a broken hair-slide. And since Bartleby trampled our plaster wizard, trying to shake off the wings Dad made for him, we’ve lost one of our biggest draws. How am I going to fight a multi-million dollar law suit without that?

Twelfth man helps Ambridge nick a win from Netherbourne

By our special cricket correspondent, Rob Titchener

Thanks to the editor for allowing this ordinary hero of the flood to write up what turned out to be a gratifying victory for Ambridge against Netherbourne.
I’m crocked at the moment – not the time or the place for details, but let’s just say justice will be done about that soon, heh. But though I can’t play, I made myself useful. I taught new captain Harrison Burns how to win the toss (surely that’s just luck? Ed), and gave Dan Hebden Lloyd a manly pep talk before his workmanlike knock. But the lower half of the batting order seemed more interested in the tea tent than winning the match. Badly done, PC Burns, heh!
Luckily I was able to have a firm word and advised him to open the bowling with Barry Simmons, who pitched it up quite nicely, despite that ridiculous man-bun. Who does he think he is, Gareth Bale? If any son of mine…
Talking of which, my boy Henry is showing terrific promise with bat and ball. I’ve bought him proper kit, despite his Granny Pat bleating about a wooden bat and hard ball being dangerous for a five-year-old. Six hours a day in the nets, and Henry will be coming along nicely. Never did me any harm…
Oops, forgot I’ve got my reporter’s hat on! Anyway, Ambridge won – our second victory after a disastrous run. And in view of my key role, I gave myself the Man of the Match award.
(Note to sports desk: don’t book him again. Ed).

The Trials of Shula Hebden Lloyd

In the latest chapter of our romantic summer serial, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine must wrestle with her conscience and her deep-seated desires…

Listlessly, Shula plucked one of Hector’s tail-hairs out of the horse blanket she was sitting on. Maybe she should have washed it before bringing it to the cricket, she thought ruefully. But life was so hectic, what with Alistair moving his practice back to the Stables, and Dan and Dorothy filling the house with youthful energy and freshly laundered piles of active leisurewear. There was Dorothy now, her muscled legs in Army shorts flashing as she collected tea things for the dishwasher…
Shula turned to Richard Locke, who was sharing one of Emma Grundy’s Brazilian brigadeiros with Lizzie, and playfully tickled him behind the ear with Hector’s hair.  ‘What the…?’ Richard slapped his neck crossly. ‘Oh, sorry Shula… I’d forgotten you were there. Can I get you anything?’
‘No thank you Richard,’ said Shula, flushing red. ‘I just thought I’d mention – did you know Dan’s Dorothy was named after the film star Dorothy Dandridge? Nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz. Isn’t that funny?’
‘Er, yes, whatever, Shula,’ said Lizzie. ‘They’re off on holiday soon, aren’t they? Croatia, isn’t it? Richard, do you fancy Split?’ And their heads were together again, giggling at some private joke…
Blinking away tears of hurt pride, Shula looked across the village green. Rob was standing over Pat and Tony; Tony was patting the rug beside him but Henry was hiding behind Rob’s legs, seemingly wanting to stay with him. Oh, what a mess. Shula felt a surge of nausea. Was it the leftover goat’s cheese quiche she’d brought to the picnic, or her conscience? In her heart, she knew the answer…


‘Really Shula, you mustn’t be so hard on yourself!’ Caroline unbuckled a bridle and started rubbing it briskly with a damp cloth. ‘So you saw Rob hit that hunt saboteur, and then you lied to the police about it to protect the hunt. Anyone would have done the same! Here, pass me that numnah and get a grip.’
Shula shuddered. Caroline had such a way of getting straight to the uncomfortable truth. ‘But it’s different for you Caroline. I’m a Christian! What will God be thinking of me? If I’d said something at the time, about the violent side of Rob that no one else has seen, Helen would have left him and none of this would have happened! It’s all my fault!’
‘Look Shula… none of us could have known what would happen. I mean, who knew that Oliver and I would be moving to Italy, and Grange Farm would be turned into holiday flats? There’ll always be a room for you and Alistair in our villa, if you need to run away from the truth – I mean, get away from it all!’
Shula twisted a set of reins in anguish. ‘But Caroline, I could have done something to stop this… and it’s too late now…’
‘Hello? Anyone there?’ The tack room door swung open and there stood Fallon, looking dishevelled and carrying a clipboard. What was she doing here?
‘Oh hi, Shula, Caroline..’ Fallon looked uncertainly at them. ‘I just wondered, do you know anything about Dunk-the-Vicar?’
Dunk-the-Vicar! Shula felt dizzy with shock. This was a sign! It was God’s way of reminding her of her wicked sins, from that business with Alan to her cowardice and lies over Rob. Dropping her bridle, she pushed past Fallon and out into the fresh air, mumbling some excuse.
‘What did I say?’ she heard Fallon ask. ‘Oh, nothing,’ said Caroline. ‘Something to do with a dodgy quiche, I think. Now listen Fallon, can you get me a selfie with Benny Carvalho?’

To be continued…  


Thanks to Bert Fry for this moving poem, which adapts a popular folk song to the sad news of a setback to Upper Class Eggs, Ambridge’s new poultry business.

Fox in the henhouse

Fox went out one summer’s night,
The moon over Hollowtree shining bright,
And the henhouse door left open wide
He crept in without a sound-oh…

Fox attacked while the chickens slept
Laid about them right and left,
Killed a bunch and maimed the rest
And the eggs all smashed on the ground-oh…

Rex and young Josh had a shock
To see their dead and dying flock,
Eddie Grundy helped finish ‘em off,
But Toby was not to be found-oh…

Toby turned up, red with shame,
Said he was the one to blame,
Seeing a girl – wouldn’t give her name –
So he hadn’t been around-oh.

Josh said this is the final straw
Rex said give him one chance more,
Toby said: ‘I’ll pay you back, for sure
But I’ve only got one pound-oh…’

Repeat over and over again.


Whack-a-Mole game. Or Splat-a-Rat will do. Or Bash-a-Bunny or Squash-a-Squirrel or Crush-a-Coypu or Wallop-a-Weasel or Stun-a-Stoat. Basically, anything that involves hitting a stuffed furry toy with a mallet. Condition unimportant, will collect before 1pm Sunday.
Contact Fallon Rogers, c/o Ambridge Tea Room. Urgent!!!!  

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Fete-gate, cricket victory, Kate’s first guests and Henry’s holiday plans… an action-packed week in Ambridge

Doyenne of fete goes nuts over Brazilian coup 

A damaging split appeared in one of Ambridge’s oldest institutions this week after members staged a coup in a bid to dislodge their veteran leader.
Fete committee newcomers Kenton Archer and Fallon Rogers mounted a direct challenge to Lynda Snell, whom they accuse of being ‘out of touch’ and ‘imposing a minority view on others'.
‘We believe we have the support of the grassroots,’ said Mr Archer. ‘Youngsters are tired of whack-a-mole, dunk the vicar and Christine Barford’s soggy shortbread. It’s Olympic year! Let’s get a Rio carnival going on the village green – caipirinhas and coconuts, not candy floss and cold tea!’
‘I completely refute any suggestion that Kenton and I are proposing an alternative fete structure to further our own ends,’ said Fallon Rogers. ‘Of course, if people choose to book the Ambridge Tea Room or a meal at The Bull (we’ve got a smashing package deal going) that’s entirely up to them. We just want to see proper democracy restored to the way this village runs its entertainments. The fete is bigger than the whims of one bossy woman. It’s high time another one took over.’
Lynda Snell, who has run the Ambridge fete for many years, immediately stepped down as committee chair and said she was ‘appalled’ by the turn of events.
‘These parvenus may think they have the village on their side, but just wait till the Parish Council gets wind of their plans to turn Ambridge into a favela fiesta,’ she said.     
‘Some of the older residents are horrified. They want the Edgeley Morris Men, not a samba band! And when Neville Booth heard that Fallon and Emma were going Brazilian in a pop-up tea tent, he fainted dead away.
‘As I said to Jill Archer: be careful. If you say nothing when they come for the fete, who will speak for you when they come for the Flower & Produce?’  

 Ambridge looks back in anger

Local residents have been warned to be vigilant after a serious outbreak of hindsight was reported in Ambridge this week.
‘It’s rare for a whole village to be affected by hindsight all at once,’ said a public health spokesperson. ‘Usually you get a slow build-up of cases where people report having a change of heart about someone, or seeing a past event in a different light.
‘But this epidemic of Titchener revisionensis  is quite virulent. People have had distressing symptoms: hand-wringing, brow-furrowing, sorrowful head-shaking and refusing to talk to their mothers about what’s wrong.
‘We’d just like to reassure people,’ said the spokesperson. ‘If you suddenly realise that a person you thought was a hero of the flood, a loving husband and father, is in fact a manipulative and vindictive control freak with a propensity for violence, you’re not alone. And if you would like someone to talk to, could you please stop faffing about and call barrister Anna Tregorran as soon as possible.’

Sports report: Victory at last for sub-strength Ambridge side

Ambridge Cricket Club notched up their first win of the season this week, beating Loxley Barrett by just three runs, despite fielding only ten men.
New captain Harrison Burns said he was ‘delighted’ with the result. ‘When Toby Fairbrother pulled out at the last minute with a groin strain (TMI. Ed) I thought we were done for,’ he said. ‘And I wasn’t sure about my team talk. When your players stick their fingers in their ears and sing “La la la we can’t hear you”, is that a good sign?
‘But having bowled us out tamely for 91, Loxley Barrett collapsed after tea, prepared, may I say, by my lovely partner Fallon Rogers. I don’t know what she and Emma put in the rock cakes, but their batsmen could barely walk, let alone run. I think we’ve found a winning formula!’

Vox pop: It’s holiday time!

School’s out, and many of our readers will be packing their buckets and spades for a well-earned break. We asked a few locals about their holiday plans:

Tom Archer, Bridge Farm: ‘No holidays for me: it’s pigs, sausages, shop, repeat, all day long. But I’m quite tempted to apply for one of these Nuffield Scholarships. You know, they’re a great way for young farmers to explore new techniques and markets worldwide? They’re very competitive. But Uncle Brian says he might be able to help. My sister Helen had this wonderful idea for organic baby food, which is big in Switzerland and Sweden, but she can’t go because…. Well, anyhoo, if I did go, I’d be doing it for Helen. I wouldn’t enjoy it at all.’

Alice Carter, agri-scientist: ‘I’ll be staying at home with my lovely hubby Chris, getting ready for my lovely new job. And I’ll have lots more lovely holibobs this year because I held out for eight extra days  – and a 20 per cent salary increase too! They were willing to pay what I’m worth because I’m super-brainy and absolutely lovely. Isn’t that lovely!’

Pat Archer, Bridge Farm: ‘We’d hoped to be taking my grandson Henry for a week in Tenerife, but unfortunately his stepfather Rob wasn’t keen. In fact he was a bit cross about it. So we’ll be taking a caravan in Weston-super-Mare. And Rob has offered to tow us there, and to pop in every day to make sure we’re OK. It will be very nice. Excuse me, I just need to take another of my headache pills…'

Toby Fairbrother, Hollowtree:  ‘Expect I’ll be heading down to Brighton – great place, cool vibe, and lots of fun, if you know what I mean guys… although on that front, things aren’t so shabby at home now. A gentleman never tells, obviously… but that Pip Archer – let’s just say the bedsprings at Rickyard aren’t getting a break this summer! (Don’t put that in in case her ghastly gran sees it).       Sorry, Toby. Too late. Ed.  

New holiday venue earns rave reviews…

Spiritual Home, the new holistic retreat at Home Farm launched by eco-entrepreneur Kate Madikane, welcomed its first paying guests this week. And it's set to be a big hit, if this review on ‘Trippy Trips 4 U’ is anything to go by…

‘Wow! Cressida and I thought we’d done glamping with a luxury pod at Glasto, but Spiritual Home is something else. Super-chilled yurt, with Persian rugs, full-length gilded mirrors, bone china and solid silver cutlery – just like mummy’s place in the country, but with Shiatsu!
‘The cashmere his ‘n’ hers robes were a nice touch, although our names aren’t Brian and Jennifer. Still, attention to detail was perfect otherwise, right down to the complimentary bottles of chilled white Burgundy served with the butternut, goji and freekeh salad. Kate was so cool – said she could get her hands on plenty more if we liked!
‘The only weird note was just before we left; this red-faced old guy came storming over the hill, waving a corkscrew and yelling “That’s it! I’ve had enough! Where is she?”
‘We assumed it was the next guest – clearly super-stressed and in need of some detox therapy! Luckily he’d come to the right place. We didn’t want to go home!’


Sunday, 17 July 2016

Harrison steps up, Ursula moves out and Pip has some fun… a week for strong stomachs in Ambridge

New beat for Ambridge police

Borsetshire’s rural crime unit (PC Harrison Burns) announced he is opening a new front in the fight against crime in Ambridge at a press briefing this week.
‘I have taken on a vital undercover role as captain of the Ambridge cricket team,’ he says. ‘It requires long, unsocial hours on a Sunday, steering Ambridge to yet another defeat watched by three senior citizens and a dog. But it’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make, to pass unnoticed in the criminal underworld that seethes in the cricket pavilion, the village green and the Flood Bar for after-match beers.
‘I’m confident this is the way to find out once and for all who stole the bunting. I’m supported by my lovely partner Fallon, who’ll be my eyes and ears in the tea tent. And she cuts the crusts off my sandwiches, just the way I like them. 
‘Crooks all over Borsetshire will be quaking in their boots when they hear this news, you mark my words. Mind how you go now.’

ElfWorld: a statement

Readers may be wondering why, unlike our so-called rival, the Borchester Echo, we have not published pictures of ElfWorld, the new tourist attraction at Grundys’ Field, this week.
The Ambridge Observer takes its responsibility as a family newspaper very seriously, and in our opinion the images supplied with the story were completely unacceptable. Mr Eddie Grundy has expressed ‘outrage’ that ElfWorld may now have to take out paid advertisements rather than getting free publicity, but his daughter-in-law Emma Grundy agreed with us.
‘Eddie and Joe looked like the Child-Catcher and a hobgoblin in them pictures,’ she said. ‘Even my little Keira was scared, and she’s family!’   
Our readers’ ombudsman, Val Hughes-Matta, also supported our decision. 'The pictures of so-called ‘elves’ would be a terrible shock to any child who has seen The Lord of The Rings,’ she said. ‘I’ve had to book an extra Reiki session to recover.’


This drill’s no bore, that’s for sure!

Farmers! Would you love to save time, wastage, overheads and input costs on your drilling programme – and help improve soil sustainability into the bargain?
Who wouldn’t! And the good news is there’s a way to achieve all this and more besides – by making a smart investment in the Trojan SuperSeeder No-Till Drill.
Don’t believe us? Just ask Brian Aldridge and Adam Macy, who’ve taken delivery of our latest model in time for the autumn drilling period at Home Farm, Ambridge.
‘Ooh, it’s really cool,’ says Adam. ‘I got all excited just reading the brochure. It’s ever so glossy, look.’
‘My daughter Alice calls it ‘the space shuttle’ and she should know – she used to build space shuttles!’ says Brian. ‘But seriously, I’m glad we went for all the extras: bifold markers, population monitoring, computerized seed control – much better than the electric with manual override option.’
And let’s leave the last word to Jennifer Aldridge, the little lady of the farm: ‘Well of course, it’s so helpful that the discs deliver a precisely calibrated mix of seed and fertilizer right into the soil, below the surface straw,’ she says. ‘But what I really love about it is that it doubles as a barbecue and rotisserie – and you can get Pokemon Go on it! Ruairi will love that now he’s home for the holidays. It will stop him hacking into the Pentagon again.’
Don’t delay: order your Trojan SuperSeeder today! Only £500,000, payable in one eye-watering instalment.

Ambridge Rural Cinema: now showing

Farming Friends with Benefits (cert : 18) 

Jaded by broken relationships, young farmer Pip (Emma Watson*) and poultry entrepreneur Toby (Lyin’ Gosling) decide they want some farmyard fun rather than true love. It’s lager, Lakey Hill and ‘greasing the trailers’ all the way at first, but will complications arise when two best pals add sex to their relationship? What will lovelorn, loyal Rex do when he finds out Toby’s emptying the condom machine for Pip’s benefit? And will wise, twinkly old Bert Fry write a poem about it? You betcha!
Don’t miss this laugh-a-minute rural rom com (not suitable for children or anyone of a sensitive disposition).

*She’s no Emma Watson! (Josh Archer, 18)

The Trials of Ursula Titchener

In the latest chapter of our romantic saga by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine must choose between her husband and her troubled, heroic son…

‘Unbelievable! Pat only gave the boy a sandwich for his lunch!’ Ursula tutted at Henry as he rushed upstairs to wash his hands. At least, the boy knew what would happen if he disobeyed Daddy. That was one thing she and Rob had been able to teach him. ‘I know,’ said Rob. ‘And taking him on a farm walk. Why would he want to run about with friends and have a picnic? We should be taking him to a safari park, where he can sit in a sweltering car and be terrified by baboons. That’s a proper day out!’
‘You’re so right, Robert dear. And soon, when we get proper custody… Talking of which, what would you like for pudding? None of that shop-bought stuff Helen would make, I know!’ At that point, Ursula’s phone rang. Instinctively she startled, and shuddered. Only one person would call her here… Forcing a smile into her voice, she answered. ‘Bruce dear! How lovely to hear you!’ she said brightly…


Ursula woke from a nightmare, in which she was imprisoned in a pastry cage, boiling custard pouring on her head. But the reality she woke to was hardly a relief. Yesterday, Bruce had visited – and it hadn’t been a successful trip. He’d found fault with her choice of lunch – well, Robert’s choice. If only he hadn’t insisted on cold meat and salad instead of her toad in the hole! Then Bruce refused to see little Henry, calling him a ‘freak of nature’. His own grandson! She was so frightened Robert would react to his father… well, let’s say she didn’t want any unpleasantness. She wearily got out of bed and her eyes fell on her half-packed suitcase. Bruce was determined she should go home, even though she’d pleaded that Robert wasn’t well enough to look after Henry on his own. But no matter how much her son needed her, she couldn’t risk disappointing her husband. She knew all too well what happened if she crossed him…


‘Goodbye, goodbye!’ Ursula waved brightly at Rob and Henry, who stood on the doorstep of Blossom Hill Cottage as her taxi set off down the lane. It was pouring down, but Rob had a firm hand on Henry’s shoulder, stopping him going inside. Were those raindrops on the little boy’s upturned face, or tears? Either way, it was good to see Robert taking her advice not to let Henry run rings round him. The boy needed to learn manners, after the terrible start his deranged mother had given him…  Helen. Even the thought of her made Ursula’s blood run cold. So baby Gideon’s six-week check had gone well, had it? A miracle, with that woman looking after him. She stroked her suitcase, which still held Rob’s old baby blanket and a tiny ‘Little Prince’ sleepsuit. She’d reassured Rob, but she too feared Gideon would be too big for it by the time his father finally got to hold him. And as for Bruce…. How he would react if he were denied contact with Gideon, his ‘real, proper’ grandson… The rain was lashing against the  taxi window; the summer’s day was dark and cold and thunder rumbled overhead. Ursula wished silently that the car would drive straight past the railway station, far away from the men in her life, their passions and their dangerous, deep-seated rages… 

To be continued... 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Lilian sparkles, Toby seduces and Rob muscles in: a complicated week in Ambridge

Locals celebrate foodie successes 

Ambridge businesses were celebrating this week after carrying off top prizes at the Borsetshire Food & Drink Awards.
The ‘Family Dining’ category was won by The Bull, whose chef Wayne Tucson won particular praise from the judges for his sourdough sandwiches. ‘Sadly, Wayne can’t be here as his new partner, the lovely Beverley Drains, passed away very suddenly,’ said Kenton Archer. ‘But I cheered him up by offering him a permanent contract, so it’s all good really!’
There was a poignant moment when Helen Titchener was announced as the winner of the Best Artisan Product award for her Borsetshire Blue cheese. ‘Unfortunately, we weren’t able to set up a video link to the prison, but my wife Pat collected the trophy for Helen,’ said her father Tony Archer. ‘There aren’t any sharp edges on it so we’re hoping they’ll let us post it to her.’
Ian Craig, head chef at Grey Gables, where the event was held, was a wildly popular choice for the ‘Fine Dining’ award. But there was disappointment for Emma Grundy and Fallon Rogers of the Ambridge Tea Room, and for Elizabeth Pargetter of Lower Loxley, who was also recently unlucky at the Borsetshire Businesswoman of the Year awards.
‘I really don’t mind, because I’m here with dishy Doctor Locke, and at least I’m not behind bars like poor cousin Helen,’ said Mrs Pargetter graciously.  
Rex Fairbrother, representing Upper Class Eggs, joked that he was wearing his family’s only dinner jacket. ‘It’s a shame Toby couldn’t come, but he’s busy with Pip on Lakey Hill, recording some birdsong for our video,’ he said. ‘Apparently they forgot to switch the mic on last time, so they’ve gone back for a proper session. Dedicated or what?’
The glittering soirée was sponsored by Justin Elliott, chairman of Damara Capital, ably assisted by his attentive and glamorous social secretary, Lilian Bellamy. ‘It’s always a pleasure to entertain Mr Elliott,’ said Mrs Bellamy. ‘In fact, I do it as often as I can. His wife Miranda and her friends are also spending a few days in Ambridge, and I’ve worked hard to keep them well out of the way – I mean, to ensure they have a packed and enjoyable itinerary. It’s all part of the service, darling.’

Ambridge cricket in crisis talks

In a sensational move, Alistair Lloyd resigned this week as Ambridge cricket captain, saying he could no longer steer the team through an ‘unprecedented crisis’.
‘It’s terrible,’ he said. ‘For some weeks we’ve had trouble fielding a decent tea, and not putting up any tea at all against Waterley Cross was the last cheese straw. But I’m determined that no Ambridge team will ever serve shop-bought sandwiches or stale cakes. We need fresh bread to take the tea forward.’
At an emergency meeting of members, PC Harrison Burns was elected to replace Mr Lloyd as captain for the rest of the season.
‘Harrison couldn’t be bothered to turn up for the meeting, but as his girlfriend runs a café and her mum runs a pub, he’s clearly the man to provide a proper tea every match,’ said Adam Macy. ‘We’re now fully confident of our performance with Battenberg!’ (Surely, bat and ball? Ed).  

From the message boards

 This week we drop into the Ambridge Agrichat forum, to see what’s got the local farming community talking:

• Hey guys, check out this pic from the mob-grazing system Pip Archer and I are trying. Isn’t she looking good? And she’s gained an average of 1.3kg per day with minimal handling and low-cost inputs. Delighted! HomeFarmAdam

  Wow, thanks for sharing, Adam – though I’m not sure the irresistible Pip would like you talking about her weight like that! And I wouldn’t recommend minimal handling: more is more, if our date on Lakey Hill is anything to go by! Agree with you about the low-cost inputs though: a couple of cans of warm lager and we were off to the races, if you know what I mean.  UpperClassToby

Does anyone on here have Texel sheep? I’m trying to decide whether to invest in a small pedigree flock, or to use the money for a deposit on somewhere to live, so we don’t have to share with my in-laws. What do you reckon? EdShearer

• Hello everyone, I’m a newbie here, ‘cos so far I’ve been working in aerospace engineering. But I fancy a change and everyone tells me you do farming with drones now, so I’ve got a job interview on Friday! Any tips? AgriAlice

Hi Alice! I used to know someone who was keen on drones: we spent many happy hours sharing a joystick. He’s moved to Scotland now but maybe I could get in touch… no, best not. Anyway, if you can design a jet engine you shouldn’t find tractors too much trouble. Good luck! HomeFarmAdam

The Trials of Anna Tregorran

In the latest chapter of our romantic saga by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine must confront her demons to avoid a tragedy that only she can prevent…

‘I’m not a boy, I’m an elf!’ Anna looked up, trowel in hand, and was horrified by what she saw: young Henry Titchener, with big green ears and a cloak made of bedsheets, twirling round in her mother’s front garden, shrieking with joy. And hurrying behind him were Pat Archer and – how could this be? – a grinning Rob Titchener, in a hideous T-shirt bearing the slogan: ‘’Dads’ bean 2 ElfWorld.”
‘Mum, what the hell…?’ ‘It’s the Grundys’ Great Elf Migration, Anna. The parade passes the door!’ Carol said crossly. ‘Don’t take your existential dilemmas out on me young lady, or it will be an extra dose of ‘naughty time’ tea for you!’
Mumbling an excuse, Anna grabbed her trug and rushed through to the back garden, where she sank, trembling, onto a bench.  What a disaster! Not only had she almost made contact with a prosecution witness, thus jeopardising Helen’s case, but Rob was behaving as if he were still part of the family! No wonder Pat looked so uncomfortable. He must have twisted his way into their precious day with Henry, just as he had into Helen’s heart and mind… Beside herself, she started tearing at the bindweed that threatened to strangle one of Carol’s Borsetshire Blush roses. The strands came away easily enough, but she knew the roots were deep and relentless…


‘Anna? Is that you?’ Helen’s voice sounded brighter. Maybe the new haircut and outfit she’d worn for the court hearing had boosted her confidence. It certainly wasn’t Anna’s pathetic performance before the judge, she reflected ruefully. ‘Helen, how good to hear from you! How are you getting on?’ ‘OK! I’m really enjoying working in the vegetable garden, and I’ve made a friend: Kaz. You’d like her, Anna. She’s helping me think about… well, stuff. You know.’
A small ‘Hallelujah!’ rang out in Anna’s head. She didn’t care if Kaz was Lucrezia Borgia; if she was getting Helen to talk, this was progress.
‘That’s great. But Helen, I must say this: if you feel we haven’t got a good enough rapport, and would rather appoint someone else, I would understand….’ Anna hated herself for trying to run away. But she was so afraid, terrified she would be defeated by Rob, like that other charming, handsome man, the one who’d been cleared of abuse charges and had gone back to murder his wife, her client….
Anna shook her head to banish the terrible memory. What was Helen saying? ‘No, no Anna. You mustn’t leave me now! Jack’s doing well, Aunty Lilian’s coming to see me, and Borsetshire Blue might win the Best Artisan Product of the Year award! It will all be fine, you’ll see!’
Despite herself, Anna smiled. ‘OK, goodnight Helen. See you soon.’ There was a crash downstairs – no doubt her mother dropping another pot of nettle porridge, and cursing her broken wrist.  With a new sense of purpose, Anna went down to investigate. But still the image of Rob, grinning so smugly as he tousled Henry’s hair, played on her mind…

To be continued...


Saturday, 9 July 2016

New start for Kate, new home for the elves, but no move for Henry… a troubling week in Ambridge

 Council accused of ‘cosy deal’ over Elfworld move

Ambridge Parish Council has been accused of a ‘stitch-up’ over plans to re-site the village’s latest tourist attraction.
At a meeting this week councillors nodded through a proposal by Eddie and Joe Grundy to move the ‘elf community’ to Grundys’ Field from Ambridge Millennium Wood (Aldridge. You’re fired. Ed).
Villagers say they now fear being charged large sums in donations and parking fees to visit the elves, which have been a big hit with locals and sightseers alike.
‘It was all a put-up job,’ said one angry resident. ‘We’d already had leaflets through our doors advertising ‘Grundys’ Elfworld’ and there was an article on the village website about it.
‘But at the meeting Brian Aldridge, whose wife Jennifer updates the website, said he knew nothing about it – and so did Neil Carter, whose wife is the biggest gossip in Ambridge! It was all cooked up between them to save the Aldridges’ game birds – and probably line the pockets of the council as well.’
Council chairman Mr Carter completely denied any suggestion of impropriety. ‘It was very clever of Eddie to suggest a ‘third way’ for the elves, to keep them as a tourist attraction and retain the integrity of the wood,’ he said. ‘And council members were all grateful for the complimentary sets of big green elf ears that the Grundys gave us to celebrate the launch of Elfworld. Look, I can waggle mine!’

After Brexit, it’s eggs-it

It’s the end of an eggy era at Willow Farm, as Neil Carter and Hayley Tucker have decided the timer has gone off for their free-range egg venture. 
‘Sometimes you have to make hard-boiled business decisions,’ said Mr Carter. ‘We couldn’t keep the flock going, especially after our partner Josh Archer stabbed us in the back by stealing half the hens. He said he wanted to impress Michael Gove (surely, Toby Fairbrother? Ed) but I reminded him that in any partnership, trust is paramount and Josh had destroyed that trust.’ (OK, fair enough. Ed).

Eco-preneur homes in on success

Spiritual Home, the new holistic therapy centre at Home Farm, got off to a flying start with a spectacular party this week. We asked owner Kate Madikane for her top tips for a successful launch:

1.     Have a tantrum on the day you have to organise the caterers so your ex takes pity on you and sorts out a delicious vegan feast, complete with detox drinks and tofu-and-quinoa paella. He can even get you a discount – and fix the dishwasher! Cool!
2.     When the big day arrives, make yourself scarce so your mum and gran become so irritated with you that they build the fire, set out the food area, put up the fairy lights and find some lovely flowers for the tables. Then all you have to do is chant your success mantra over the fire pit and start on the vegan margaritas!
3.     Invite friends who are willing to make complete fools of themselves on the bongos (thank you, dear Lynda Snell!) This gets everyone in the mood for doing silly things, like booking a dozen shiatsu massages for only £500 (herbal tea included).
4.     Don’t worry if family members like your father and your daughter refuse to attend. They’d only, like, drag you down with their negative energy. It’s their loss.
5.     Stay up till dawn with your ex, who sticks around to stop you falling dead drunk into the fire pit, and tell yourself you’ve done a really brilliant job.

Letter to the editor

Dear Madam,

My mother Ursula and I would like to thank your readers for all the support we have received since the tragic events at Blossom Hill Cottage. Your faith was rewarded this week when the Family Court ruled that my son Henry should stay with us and not return to the chaotic parents of his deranged and dangerous mother. The judge was clearly moved by the sight of my crutches, oxygen tank and head-to-toe plaster cast and my brave struggle with the consequences of that woman’s vicious and unprovoked attack on me. 
Unfortunately, despite the bags of sliced onions mother brought along, the judge was not persuaded by our tearful pleas to have baby Gid – er, the new baby – transferred to our care. This is unfortunate, but I know where the judge lives.
Still, life goes on (though it nearly didn’t, heh!) and I’m delighted that young Henry will remain as a bargaining chip – I’m so sorry, that should read ‘as a much loved member of the Titchener family’ – for the foreseeable future.

Yours faithfully

Rob Titchener