Sunday, 28 August 2016

Party pranks, Grundys at war and horror for Helen: an X-rated week in Ambridge

Senior’s sermon shocks churchgoers

The congregation of St Stephen’s have expressed astonishment at an impromptu sermon given by Joe Grundy during Morning Service last Sunday.
Claiming ‘the spirits have called me to speak from the heart', Mr Grundy, 94, took as his text the ‘Grundy Apocrypha’, which he said gave his family rights that could not be overturned.
‘Yea, so it is writ, even unto the fourth and fifth generations, that Grundys shall be given dominion over Grange Farm, and shall be suffered to husband their ferrets wheresoever they may choose, even unto the master bedchamber,’ he read.
‘And it is further writ that Grundys shall be entitled to their tithes and compensation from the land of Ambridge, whosoever may own it, even if it be Aldridges. And such tithes may include such portion as a brace of pheasants in due season. And each generation, even unto the little children, shall be taught by their grandfathers to befuddle such pheasants with Bulgarian whisky, for the easier apportionment of said tithe, even though their father be a gamekeeper and be moved to mortal anger when he shall find it out.’
Mr Grundy concluded with a dire warning. ‘If Grundys be not allowed to dwell in Grange Farm, the house of their forefathers, their souls shall haunt the earth, and those who show them no mercy shall be condemned to perpetual torment, especially if their name be Oliver and Caroline Sterling. Amen.’
Worshippers said the outburst was ‘completely inappropriate’ and were surprised that the vicar did not intervene.
‘Apocrypha, my eye,’ said one. ‘Joe said it was an ancient document found in a family Bible, but I could clearly see it was scribbled on the back page of Ferrets Magazine.’
The Revd Alan Franks admitted that the sermon was ‘a little more controversial’ than expected. ‘But to be honest, I get tired trying to think of nice things to say about farmers every week, so Joe’s offer to speak was a relief,’ he said. ‘I do feel sorry for Clarrie Grundy though. She’s so mortified she’s resigned from the flower rota.’

Lawyer ‘concerned’ by Titchener jail incident

Helen Titchener’s barrister says she is worried by reports this week of an attempted suicide at the mother-and-baby custody unit where her client is being held on remand.
‘Mrs Titchener has told her family she was very shaken by the incident, as she was good friends with Kaz, the young woman who was driven to this desperate action,’ said Anna Tregorran. ‘It only shows how vital it is that my client is released as soon as possible. There’s only so much anyone can take, being locked up with Helen. I should know; she still won’t talk to me. Our meetings are a nightmare. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit busy as my ex has asked for a divorce and I’ve taken to drink. But perhaps this tragic event will be a wake-up call for both of us. Time is running out. And so is my secret stash of Scotch.’  

Police crack down on youthful antics

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) warned this week that he will show ‘zero tolerance’ to alcohol-fuelled antics over August Bank Holiday.
‘We know that emotions are running high, with exam results coming out,’ he said at a press briefing. ‘But this is no excuse for criminal behaviour.’
PC Burns said a 16-year-old from Lower Loxley had been returned to his home ‘in a drunken stupor’ after receiving a poor set of GCSEs. ‘It seems this young man’s twin sister had done very well, which was difficult for him, said PC Burns. ‘But it is never acceptable to throw up into a policeman’s hat. It took Fallon hours to get the smell out.’
And a party for fruit-pickers at Home Farm was broken up after thousands of pounds’ worth of damage was caused to a new no-till drilling machine in a ‘silly prank’.
‘It was lucky no-one was hurt in this incident, where Mrs Carter drove the tractor at speed round the yard, egged on by Josh and Pip Archer,’ said PC Burns. ‘They should all know better, although Miss Archer said it only proved her point that Alice wasn’t a proper farmer.’
PC Burns also had harsh words for young lovers who might be tempted by the hot weather to frolic al fresco. ‘An Ambridge resident out walking by the Am opposite Bert Fry’s bungalow was alerted by panting noises coming from his garden,’ he said. ‘After cutting down some foliage and using high-powered binoculars, she was able to confirm it was a couple in flagrante. Appalled, she shouted at them to stop but the young man said: “Sorry love, I’d say join the queue, but me and Pip are exclusive now!”
‘It is never a good idea to get carried away outdoors,’ said PC Burns. ‘Especially if your back goes into spasm just as a group of mushroom foragers turns up. Not that I would know of course. Mind how you go now.’

Competition hots up for produce prizes

With the annual Flower & Produce Show nearly upon us, how are Ambridge’s cooks, gardeners and crafters planning to catch the eye of the judges?

Henry Titchener (aged 5): ‘My Daddy made me a golden crown for ‘Best Hat Made By A Child’. He said if I made it I wouldn’t win and I have to learn that you do whatever it takes to win. Like at cricket. He said I am his little prince. But I’d rather be a donkey like on the beach at Tenby with Granny Pat.’
Christine Barford: ‘This year I’m sticking to what I know: my famous scones. Last year’s ginger biscuits weren’t everyone’s favourite. But they came in very handy as hardcore in Lynda Snell’s new garden!’
Keira Grundy (aged 5): ‘My hat is like a chimney pot and it’s got real flowers in it. My brother George says it won’t win because I’m a girl. But at least I don’t steal peasants like him and Granddad. Oops, I’m not supposed to tell.’
Carol Tregorran: ‘Bert Fry will be masterminding my entry as usual. His green beans are a thing of wonder this year. But I think it would be nice to have a new prize in honour of his dear late wife Freda. What, though? She excelled in so many categories: cakes, pies, rhubarb gin… do you have any bright ideas?’
(Over to you, readers! Please send your suggestions for the Freda Fry Award to the Ambridge Observer office. Ed).

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I am writing to cancel the ‘Situation vacant’ advertisement I booked for next week’s issue. I have already found a suitable nanny to look after my son Henry and baby Gideon, when the poor little mite is liberated from the so-called ‘care’ of his so-called ‘mother’.
Charlotte (the successful candidate) is tender-hearted, sensitive, extremely gullible and asks no awkward questions. I have a feeling she will be the perfect fit for our family.

Yours faithfully,

Rob Titchener, Blossom Hill Cottage

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Exam results disappoint, Joe makes a point and a shock appointment : an upside down week in Ambridge

Local students stunned by ‘disastrous’ exam results

While their peers across Borsetshire were celebrating record A-level successes, two Ambridge teenagers say they are ‘devastated’ by their exam results.
‘It’s not fair,’ said Phoebe Aldridge of Home Farm. ‘I only got three As and one A-star, and I wanted an A-star in History as well. I blame my so-called mother. I knew I should have finished Volume 4 of Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples. But she kept me up till dawn with her stupid solstice celebration.’
Ms Aldridge said her grades were good enough for her to take up her place to read PPE at Oxford University. ‘But all the other girls will have two A-stars. Now I really must interrogate the question of whether I want to continue on the education conveyor belt at all!’ (Sorry, what? Ed).
Meanwhile, Josh Archer of Brookfield said he was ‘gutted’ by his results: two Bs and a C.
‘It’s a disaster. My cover as a lazy layabout who’s only fit to raise chickens is completely blown,’ he said. ‘I’m outed as the brains of the family, just because I got better results than my dad or my sister.’
Mr Archer said he had deferred his place at Felpersham University for a year to consider his options. ‘Maybe if I can spend the next year doing some incredibly stupid things, mum and dad will forget about me going to college’, he said. ‘You don’t need a degree to run an egg empire. Just lots of hens.’

Business news

By our agribusiness correspondent Hector Cash-Cropp

Damara Capital appoints estates head…

Rob Titchener, who left his post as herd manager of Berrow Farm last year, is returning to Damara Capital to run all of the conglomerate’s Borsetshire estates.
‘It’s a big step up, but I have every confidence in Rob,’ said chairman Justin Elliott. ‘Now that route B is no longer going ahead, we need to make the land earn its keep while new planning applications go through. Rob convinced me he has the skills to squeeze every last drop out of any project he takes on and I know he will keep tight control of all the company assets.’
Mr Elliott said he was ‘relaxed’ about the forthcoming trial at which Mr Titchener’s wife stands accused of trying to murder him. ‘My social secretary Lilian Bellamy did express a concern, but when it comes to business she knows I’m the boss,’ he said. ‘Rob and I share this view of women in the workplace.’
Mr Titchener said he was ‘delighted, but not surprised’ to be offered the post. ‘As soon as I made it known I was looking for opportunities, Justin called and this seemed like a natural fit for a man of my abilities,’ he said. ‘I had taken a step back from my career at my wife’s insistence, as she wanted me to set up her little family farm shop.
‘I achieved this, at great personal cost, I must say. But I’m now ready to take on a man-sized job again and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the challenge.’

…. as Carter flies high in new role

Alice Carter has been appointed sales manager of FlyByNight Aerial Imagery, a start-up that aims to get Borsetshire farmers up to speed with the latest drone technology.
‘It’s really amazing,’ said Mrs Carter. ‘Our breakthrough, cutting-edge innovations mean we can achieve accurate images even in the dark, and transmit data direct to on-board computers. Using the latest GPS techniques we can help you calibrate fertiliser spread or seed distribution with unrivalled precision!’
Mrs Carter said her role was to engage with farmers and demonstrate how FlyByNight can help save costs and improve efficiency. ‘I don’t see it as sales; it’s just helping people,’ she said. ‘For instance, I bet I could save you some money. Are you a farmer? Do you know any farmers? Can I talk to them? Would you like my card? Wait…come back….’ (That’s enough biz news. Ed.)

New series: Down Memory Lane

In the first of an occasional series, Joe Grundy reminisces about a colourful Ambridge character of his youth…

‘When I was a lad, many’s the night me and Billy Tompkins would meet up and go foraging – poaching, as our Clarrie calls it.
‘I never knew anyone loved his ferrets as much as Billy – not even me. We had some rare old adventures. Feedin’ the pheasants on whisky-soaked raisins to get ‘em drowsy… More than once we nearly came ‘ome with poacher’s bottom – what they used to call a backside full of gunshot pellets. But we never got caught.
‘Billy went to Italy, 1943 it was, never came home again. But I didn’t forget him – I named one of my best ever ferrets after him.
‘Course, you couldn’t do that now. Poachin’ is stealin’, they say; trespassers will be persecuted an’ all that. But if the common man needs a little something from the land, it’s only a tiny fraction of what was rightfully ‘is and what was stolen from ‘im.
‘Take Grange Farm. It’s my God-given right to die on the land I farmed for so long. But that Caroline Sterling says I’ve got to pack up my ferrets and she’s going to throw me out, with no more dignity than a sack of spuds. (That’s enough reminiscing. The Sterlings’ lawyers have been on. Ed).     

From the AmMums message boards

Our pick of the topics that got Ambridge mums chatting online this week…

• Hey guys! I don’t usually drop in here, what with being a super-busy eco-entrepreneur. And anyway, I don’t feel like a mum – Feebs is more like my best friend, you know? But guess what – she absolutely smashed her A-levels! And I mean more smashed than me after a night on the vegan tequila! So it’s off to Oxford for my baby. How cool is that? Oh – and by the way ladies, it’s 10 per cent off chakra rebalancing at Spiritual Home this week! KleverKate

• Congratulations Kate; you must be delighted. But you know, I do sometimes feel sorry for clever girls. Take my Anna. She did so well, passing all those exams, lots of distinctions, being called to the Bra, or whatever those lawyers do. But it’s no life for a young woman, her head stuck in books and files. I often wish she’d settle down with a life-partner of her choice. Instead of which here she is, about to get divorced and going to bed with Johnnie Walker instead of that nice Max. And I’m sure it’s affecting how she’s managing poor Helen Titchener’s case. Still, we can’t live our children’s lives for them, can we? I’m certain Phoebe will turn out fine, despite being a bluestocking. CarolT

• You don’t know how lucky you are, the pair of you. I’m worried sick about my George. He’s just finished primary school, it’s the middle of the holidays, and he’s spending all his time reading a book! It’s not natural for a boy his age. Not natural for a Grundy of any age, to be fair. I think it’s all the stress we’re under, having to keep Grange Farm clean for viewings, Lady Muck Sterling turning up whenever she likes. Anyone would think she owned the place! Why can’t George be out causing trouble like other boys? It’s not right. MummyEmma. 

• Don’t worry Emma; George will be fine if you carry on believing in him. That’s what I’ve found with my Robert. He’s been through a terrible time, getting mixed up with … well, this is AmMums, so I won’t talk about women who aren’t fit to be a mother! But he’s through it all now and soon he’ll have Henry and baby Gideon living with him full-time – and he’s just landed a top job, too. He’s determined to settle in Ambridge, so I can’t wait to visit often and become a part of village life! GrandmaUrsula

• Get off here, you ghastly troll. You’re not part of Ambridge life and never will be, no matter how much time you spend eavesdropping on gossip in the village shop. How can you think Rob is a good father? You might be his mother but anyone can see he’s a monster! And as for saying Helen’s not a fit mother…. No words. Just no words. Anon. 

• Well, I say! Is this Pat Archer? I wouldn’t be surprised by anything that family might stoop to. And so cowardly too. GrandmaUrsula.

• What Anon said. Everyone.

(This thread has been closed. AmMumsMod).

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Anna is frustrated, Shula is tormented, Rob is thwarted: a deeply disturbing week in Ambridge

Parish council puts paid to elves

In an extra-ordinary meeting this week, Ambridge parish councillors voted unanimously to support the following recommendation:
‘That the owners of the facility known as ElfWorld on Grundys Field shall be required to remove all plastic dayglo signage on the village green, the hand-painted bedsheet sign on the highway, and the advertising hoarding reading ‘Ambridge twinned with ElfWorld’ on the village boundary.’
The Clerk noted that Messrs Joe and Eddie Grundy had agreed to co-operate with the order
and accepted that their tourist attraction was no longer viable.  
‘Some of us felt a bit sorry for Joe and Eddie,’ said one councillor. ‘But ElfWorld couldn’t go on as it was. Joe’s idea to turn the grotto into a cottage hospital was a nightmare. Children were screaming with fright, their parents’ Volvos were getting stuck in the mud and Environmental Health were all over us.’
‘It’s true; ElfWorld has gone down the plughole,’ said Eddie Grundy. ‘But Dad isn’t taking it lying down. He’s got the elves stashed away somewhere, and he’s busy writing a play called “George Grundy and the Sycamore-Cursed Child”. There might be something in it, you never know.’

New series: Ask Aunty Satya

Are you struggling with a moral dilemma or stuck on a point of etiquette? With her warm-hearted wisdom and forensic legal skills, Usha Franks’s favourite aunty has the answers!

Dear Aunty Satya,
My granddaughter’s heart was broken recently, yet she is having a passionate relationship with a most unsuitable young man and when I tactfully asked her about it, she said it was ‘just a summer fling’. This young man’s father was a cad and I am worried about my granddaughter’s welfare. What would you advise? Jill A.

Dear Jill,
At times like this it is often wise to look to the ways of our ancestors. Perhaps you could take this young man on one side and threaten him with a shotgun. Or contact his father and urge him to cut his son off without a penny. But youngsters today are very headstrong. You may find it more effective to follow them around and burst in saying: ‘Hello you two!’ whenever they are alone.

Dear Aunty Satya,
I was desperate to confess to perverting the course of justice in order to help my cousin, who is facing a charge of attempted murder. But her lawyer tells me because I lied to the police once, I am an unreliable witness and my evidence about my cousin’s violent husband is inadmissible. I feel I need to be punished. What can I do? Shula H-L.

Dear Shula,
I believe there are places where ladies who feel they have been naughty can go to be chastised; my niece Usha once defended a gentleman who ran a ‘dungeon’ in Cricklewood, I think it was. But I digress. Dwelling on the past is unhealthy for your spirit. If you meditate on your present life – at your absent son, dull husband, thankless job and unrealised dreams of romance – you may well conclude you are being punished enough already.

Dear Aunty Satya,
I am running a business with my brother and reluctantly I have had to admit to myself that he is an an arrogant, lazy, selfish leech who is more interested in chasing skirt than being responsible at work or looking after his family. Our father recently had a heart attack and he has refused point-blank to help. Do you have any advice? Rex F.

Dear Rex,
I think if you read through your letter again, my dear, you will find you have answered your own question.

Dear Aunty Satya,
The legal case I am working on is giving me sleepless nights. A key witness – my client’s husband’s first wife – has refused to testify; my client still won’t tell me what really happened to her; her brother can only think about his Nuffield scholarship and my own mother is driving me mad, fussing over me. How can I make progress? Anna T.

Dear Anna,
In a difficult situation we should turn to family. When Usha was working on a tough case I made sure I was always there with a pot of tea and a pile of pakoras. I would recommend you take your mother’s good advice and eat your muesli. You cannot fight a devious psychopath with low blood sugar.  

The Trials of Rob Titchener

In the latest chapter of our summer saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero struggles with turbulent emotions as events begin to spin out of his control…

‘Congratulations captain – first round’s on me!’ Rob slapped Burns on the shoulder. PC Plod  lacked the Titchener will to beat Darrington at any cost, but at least he’d had the wit to take Rob’s advice.
‘Um, well actually Harrison, we’ve got plans…’ Fallon whispered urgently in her boyfriend’s ear, obviously making up some lie. Rob felt the pulse throbbing in his head. To think he’d forced himself to praise her grubby little tea room. Ungrateful cow.
‘No worries mate! We’ll have one for you, won’t we lads?’ But the rest of the team seemed to take their cue from their captain, making excuses and hurrying off. Suppressing his irritation, Rob burst into the changing room, where Adam Macy was still towelling himself off. ‘Adam! Come for a drink. Bring Ian!’ ‘I’m sorry Rob. You might as well know Ian’s agreed to be a character witness for Helen. So to be honest….’
Adam’s cool gaze was more than Rob could bear. Using every ounce of strength he had not to strike the man, he spat: ‘Honest? Your lot don’t know the meaning of the word!’
He turned on his heel, ignoring Adam’s outraged reaction, red clouds of anger swirling in his head….  


‘Henry. Stop that!’ Rob clenched his hands on the steering wheel. ‘I said stop kicking the seat, or I’ll take your new tablet away.’ ‘You said we were going to see Granny Ursula!’ the boy whined. ‘But I told you, we’re seeing an old friend of mine first. Now be patient.’
Damn. Where was she? Typical of her to mess him around, even if she wasn’t expecting him. At last, a woman and a buggy came out of the house with the red gate. Rob quietly put the  car into gear and followed her to the park. Once he’d had a word with Jess and baby Ethan, she’d be clear on what to say to that bitch Anna Tregorran…


‘OK Henry, let’s play the game one more time before we get home. What do you say to the nice social worker tomorrow, when she asks you about living with me?’
Rob kept an eye on the little boy in the rear view mirror as he recited his lines like a nursery rhyme.  
‘Daddy gives me sweets. Daddy lets me play in the mud. Daddy plays cricket. Daddy buys me a tablet with apps on. I have lots and lots of fun with Daddy and not with anyone else. Not Grandma Pat with her nasty food. Not dirty Emma. Not bad Mummy. Is that right Daddy? Can I have pizza afterwards?’
‘Yes Henry, you certainly can. Good boy.’ For the first time all week, Rob felt relaxed…

To be continued…

Recipe of the week

Cheers to Alistair Lloyd for sending us this celebration cocktail recipe. ‘Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make my wife Shula’s birthday party at The Bull as I was busy transporting veterinary-standard paperclips from Penny Hassett to The Stables,’ he said.
‘But I asked her twin Kenton to whip up this cheeky cocktail for her.’ Sounds like it packs a punch, Alistair!

St Shula’s Martyrita

1 large glass whine
1 measure tomartyr juice
1 measure dry martyrini
1 egg-white-on-face
Plenty of bitters

Mix all the ingredients together. Pour into an Old Fashioned glass, garnish with a sour cherry, top up with ice and drink through the last straw.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I must protest in the strongest terms about your report of our beloved dog Scruff’s funeral service last week. I can’t imagine where your so-called journalist got his facts (although the fact that Scruff’s former owner couldn’t even be bothered to attend his memorial speaks volumes in my opinion. Shocking.)
Anyway, far from the disrespectful parodies of hymns you list, Robert read a very moving poem by John Galsworthy, and we played Enigma Variation #11, which was inspired by a bulldog called Dan. This was a thoughtful link to Scruff’s former owner’s son, which she completely ignored. And this from a pillar of St Stephen’s.
Please print a prominent correction at your earliest convenience.

Yours faithfully (unlike Scruff’s former owner)

Mrs Lynda Snell

We have apologised to Mrs Snell for any distress caused by our report, and have made a donation to the Eternal Paws Pet Crematorium in recognition of the fine work they do. Ed.