Sunday, 25 September 2016

Joe settles in, Adam moves out and Rob signs on the dotted line… it’s all change in Ambridge

Flower & Produce: competition hots up

With the Ambridge Flower & Produce Show only days away, villagers have been warned to be vigilant about ‘sabotage and theft’ as competitors seek to gain unfair advantage.
‘We have been notified of one potentially Show-related burglary,’ said Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns). ‘Mrs Carol Tregorran of Glebe Cottage returned from holiday to report her kitchen had been thoroughly searched, and cheese, tomatoes and gingerbread had been taken.
‘Luckily, she had already given her wine, chutney and jam to Mrs Jill Archer of Brookfield for safekeeping. But Mrs Archer also reported the disappearance of jam jars, which she thought might be an attempt to prevent her making her signature blackcurrant jam.
Show veteran Mrs Peggy Woolley confirmed the competition is ‘cut-throat’ this year. ‘The new ‘Best in Show’ award in honour of Freda Fry has got everyone fired up,’ she said.  ‘Christine Barford was terrified that someone would steal her scones if she put them outside to cool. But no one wanted them for some reason.’
‘Further enquiries revealed that Mrs Archer had forgotten where she’d put her jars, and Bert Fry and Joe Grundy had been ‘tidying up’ at Glebe Cottage,’ said PC Burns. ‘But be careful out there, F & P people!’

Business news

Our special correspondent Hector Cash-Cropp writes:

Damara parts company with PR…

The public relations agency advising Justin Elliott, chairman of Damara Capital, has resigned the account citing ‘strategic differences’. ‘Our position has become increasingly difficult since Mr Elliott appointed Lilian Bellamy to handle him personally,’ said a spokesman for Pitchfork PR. ‘But his decision to take on Rob Titchener as estates manager was a step too far. Only last year, Mr Elliott took our advice to dismiss his herd manager, Charlie Thomas, after the botulism outbreak. So to appoint a man who’s been exposed as a serial abuser and rapist in a court of law is a reputation management disaster in our view.’
‘I’d like to thank Pitchfork for their work, but we agreed to differ in this case,’ said Mr Elliott. ‘Rob Titchener has not been convicted of any offences. Damara’s estates need the firm smack of leadership and Rob is just the man to deliver it.’

… while egg entrepreneur proves he’s a fungi

Josh Archer, who is already making a name for himself with Upper Class Eggs, a business he runs with Rex and Toby Fairbrother at Hollowtree, is branching out in a new direction – a market where he believes there’s ‘mush-room’ for growth.
‘I’m not talking about bog-standard white mushrooms, but exotic types for the specialist market,’ says Josh, who is currently on a gap year.  
‘Dad’s got no faith in me at all. He says whatever kind of mushrooms I grow, they’ll be shiitake. But I’ve called in Wayne Tucson, chef at The Bull, as a special adviser. He tells me he’s an expert on mushrooms – or ‘shrooms’, which I believe is the technical term. He says we’ll make a packet.’

From the vicarage fireside….

The Reverend Alan Franks of St Stephen’s writes:

‘You know, sometimes it’s a tiring old job, trying to heal the whole community of Ambridge all on my own. Ever since the dreadful tragedy at Blossom Hill Cottage, villagers have been beating a path to my door, distressed, bewildered and confused.
‘Vicar’, they say, nervously, ‘where have you been all this time? In a crisis we look to you for clichés, platitudes and meaningless sentimental guff. But you were nowhere to be seen!’
‘There now my children,’ I say to them. ‘Just remember to love thy neighbour as thyself, unless they’ve stabbed someone in your buy-to-let property, or left blood all over the carpets, or both. That’s happened to my wife Usha and she’s in a right tizzy about it.
And remember too that the quality of mercy is not strained, cleanliness is next to godliness (which I hope Mr Titchener will remember before vacating the property) and a trouble shared is a trouble halved.’
‘I find these simple words are usually enough to restore people’s hope and belief in the essential goodness of mankind (except for monsters and psychopaths like Rob Titchener, as my wife Usha reminds me.)’

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

There are few topics more contentious and sensitive than assisted suicide, but I strongly feel it is one we should not be afraid to discuss. For example, imagine yourself in the position of a kind-hearted property owner, who lets his house at a knock-down rent to a very old man who assures you he is not long for this world. Then, before the ink is dry on the tenancy agreement, he suddenly discovers a new lease of life, invites the whole village to his 95th    birthday party and announces he intends to go on forever!
In this instance, would it not be the kindest thing to let him fall asleep on your Edwardian chaise longue (which he has dragged outside and turned into a nest for his ferrets) and then, while he is snoring peacefully, smother him with a cushion?
I would be very interested to hear your readers’ views on this issue.

Name and address withheld      


The Trials of Adam Macy

In the first chapter of our passionate new seasonal saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero must face up to the consequences of past indiscretions…

‘Oh, Adam, just look at this mess darling!’ Jennifer picked up the cushion by one corner, wrinkling her nose. ‘It’s filthy – what have your fruit pickers been doing on it?’ For one fleeting second, Adam remembered a wild evening with Pawel in this caravan, on that very banquette, the windows steaming up with their passion… My God, what was he thinking? It was this kind of madness that had ruined his marriage to Ian, leaving it as stained and torn as that cushion… ‘Probably a strawberry fight, mum,’ he said miserably. ‘I’ll replace it.’ ‘Look, Adam,’ Jennifer said gently. ‘I know you’re upset because I got drunk and told Rob you can’t keep it in your trousers, and it all came out in court. So to speak. But darling, really, just talk to Ian – it will be alright. I should know – look how often I’ve forgiven Brian!’
Adam smiled wanly. Maybe his mother was right. Perhaps he would ask Ian to go for couples counselling, as she suggested. Or maybe he had to accept that this time, he’d gone too far…


Adam woke with a start, from a horrible nightmare in which Ian had thrown him out of Honeysuckle Cottage. Something was pressed against his thigh – was it Ian? No; it was cold and sharp-edged. He scrabbled for his phone and switched on its torch. In the narrow beam of light, something glimmered – and suddenly the truth hit him like a torrent of freezing water. It was a bar stool, one of several piled on the bed, and he was not at home, but upstairs in The Bull. It was 4.30am, the darkest hour before the dawn, and this was no nightmare – it was all real. Ian’s cruel words came flooding back, filling his head like the cartons of crisp packets that were crammed into every corner of this tiny, bleak room. ‘If Pawel or Charlie were here, you’d be with them, not me… you just can’t help yourself!’ Adam fell back onto his pillow, which Kenton had hastily made up using bar towels stuffed into an old pair of Jolene’s tights. ‘Sorry old mate – but it won’t be for long. You’ll be back at home soon enough!’ Kenton had said. But deep in his heart, Adam feared he might never go home again…


‘So come on Adam, man to man – what do you think the Government will do about farm subsidies post-Brexit?’ Adam appreciated the effort Kenton was making to cheer him up,  but his loud farming banter couldn’t drown out the whispers or hide the pointing fingers of The Bull’s regulars. ‘Adam and Ian parted company… no surprise after what came out in court… a sorry business’. He drained his pint and turned on his heel. Home Farm was chaos, with Phoebe getting ready for Oxford, but at least he would be welcome there…  ‘Over here, Adam Macy!’ Bert Fry and Joe Grundy were gurning at him from a corner table. ‘Come and join us, young Macy!’ Joe said. ‘We needs a third member of our team for the pub quiz – we’re the Old Contemptibles!’ In spite of himself, Adam smiled. How appropriate, he thought, sinking onto a stool. He had found where he belonged at last…

To be continued…


Sunday, 18 September 2016

A family reunited, Rob rejected and a romance rekindled: a joyful week in Ambridge

Ambridge rejoices at family court ruling  

After walking free from Borchester Crown Court last week (see our special report here) there was joy for Helen Titchener of Bridge Farm on Friday, as the family court ruled that she should have custody of her sons Henry and Jack.
Judge Loomis, who had also presided over Mrs Titchener’s trial for attempted murder, said he was satisfied that petitioner Rob Titchener posed a risk of harm to his stepson and son.
In a shock move, the judge banned him from any contact with Henry, and ruled that visits with Jack should be supervised, pending a psychiatric assessment.
Mr Titchener, who shouted out ‘No, it can’t be!’ in court as the ruling was given, said he was ‘devastated’. ‘I still can’t understand what I’ve done to deserve this,’ he said. ‘What is wrong with everybody?’
Tony Archer, Helen Titchener’s father, said he was proud of his ‘beautiful, brave daughter’. ‘We’ve been through so much as a family, but now we can begin to look forward again,’ he said. ‘I just need to sponge my slacks first. In all the excitement, Kirsty and Tom were larking about and spilt coffee on them, and it might stain. Anyone got a wet wipe?’

False alarm at Grange Farm

An ambulance was called to Grange Farm on Thursday, where an elderly man was feared to be having a heart attack. Joe Grundy, 94, collapsed during a family celebration, prompting his daughter-in-law Clarrie to call 999. ‘Our landlord Oliver Sterling had just told us we could stay on at Grange Farm and Joe were that excited, he started doing a jig in the kitchen with a ferret on his head,’ she said. ‘Then suddenly he went all pale and fell over. We was ever so worried, but the paramedics said his blood sugar were low. Not surprised, he’s been off his food so long, fretting about having to leave his home.’
Mr Grundy was treated at the scene and has now made a full recovery.

New series: Rough justice!

He’s heard it all before and tells it like it is: dare you put your legal questions to our man at the Bar? 

Q I was recently involved in a court case and am appalled at the way the press has treated me. They are dragging my reputation through the mud with headlines like ‘Serial abuser posed as Mr Nice Guy’ and ‘Husband’s cruel jibes led to stabbing horror’. Can I sue these miserable hacks for libel? OutragedRob, Ambridge.

A As the press reports appeared as a contemporaneous record of a court case, and as the jury concluded that the accusations were true, any libel claim is unlikely to succeed. In other words, suck it up, loser.

Q The family court has decided that my son can no longer see his stepson at all, and is only allowed supervised visits with his baby son. Where does this judgement leave me as the baby’s paternal grandmother? GrannyUrsula, Hampshire.

A Very often one has sympathy for grandparents, who have far fewer rights in the family court than a child’s parents. But not in this case. I read the court reports. You’re a nasty piece of work who doesn’t deserve grandchildren and you only have yourself to blame.

Q I leased part of my farm to two brothers so they could set up a poultry business. One of the brothers is OK but the other is a waste of space, and I’ve just found out he and my daughter are ‘an item’. Can I evict them? DisturbedDad, Brookfield.

A Having reviewed the contract you sent me, I’m afraid I can’t find a clause prohibiting the tenants from having sexual relations with any member of the landlord’s family. So if I were you I’d be grateful that the decent brother hasn’t made a pass at your wife. And I assume you’re getting plenty of free eggs?

Q  I feel sorry for the tenants in our farmhouse and have decided to let them stay on at a reduced rent. My wife Caroline says this is financial suicide and we should evict them, sell up and buy a massive palazzo in Tuscany. Who is right? SoftheartedOliver, Grey Gables.

A Your wife is right. These tenants will probably burn the farmhouse down or fill it with livestock, making the asset worthless. But when you are forced to sell up in Italy and come back to work as cleaners in the hotel you once owned, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are much nicer than she is.


The Trials of… Kirsty Miller

In the concluding chapter of our summer saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine is caught up in a maelstrom of powerful and conflicting passions…

‘How’s it going?’ Tom’s voice woke Kirsty from her reverie. In the warmth of the polytunnel, she was thinking of Helen, home at last, waiting to be reunited with Henry, and rocking baby Jack in his Moses basket. Despite everything her friend had been through, she looked blissfully happy – a happiness that Kirsty could only imagine… ‘Fine!’ she said to Tom brightly. ‘You’ve got a bumper crop of tomatoes here!’ She held out her basket. He reached in to fondle the firm, round fruit. ‘They’re beauties!’ he said appreciatively. Oh Lord, why was she blushing? ‘Glad to be of use,’ she said brusquely, to hide her confusion. ‘I just came to say…’ ‘What, Tom?’ ‘Just to say, um – stay for lunch Kirsty! I’d like you to stay – I mean, Helen would like it… if you could just finish picking this row first, OK?’ ‘Sure, no problem!’ Same old Tom Archer. Always putting business first. It was just as well he dumped you, she told herself, wrenching an unripe tomato off its stalk…   


‘To Helen!’ Kirsty raised her glass of ‘Old Otto’ vintage cider, saved by Tony for this special occasion, and joined in the family toast. Looking at their beaming faces round the table, she felt a pang of bitter-sweet pain. Was it Pat’s root vegetable bake, or a poignant reminder that she had so nearly been an Archer herself? She blinked away a tear; Helen was speaking to her. ‘And to you Kirsty – you literally saved my life,’ her friend said, her voice brimming with emotion. ‘All I want to do now is spend time at home with you, my loved ones, and my children.’
‘Hear hear!’ said Tom. His eyes met Kirsty’s across the cheeseboard. Something inside her melted like week-old Borsetshire Blue as she returned his gaze. Furious with herself, she looked away.
‘Mummy, can I have a drink too?’ Henry piped up from the sofa. ‘Granny Ursula gave me gin so I’d go to sleep!’ ‘Oh, darling!’ Kirsty could tell Helen didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She told herself not to be so selfish. This family still had so much to deal with; there’d be no time for her foolish dreams of what might have been…


‘So, here we are then.’ Tom switched off the car engine outside Willow Farm, and turned towards her. ‘Thanks for the lift, Tom – it’s been quite a week.’ His face was very close to hers. ‘You’ve been so good to Helen, Kirsty – to all of us,’ he said. ‘Oh no, anyone would have done the same,’ she blustered, struggling with her seatbelt, her fingers suddenly clumsy. Gently, Tom closed his hand over hers. ‘I – I don’t want you to go,’ he murmured urgently. ‘Does that make sense?’ ‘I think so…’ What was happening? He was kissing her, and she was kissing him back. What was she doing? This man had jilted her at the altar; humiliated her; broken her heart! ‘I’m not – I’m not falling for you again Tom!’ she managed to say, as he kissed her again. And suddenly they were both swept away by the passion of the moment, on a glorious tide that led them into the cottage, past an astonished Roy, who was eating pizza and watching First Dates on catch-up, and upstairs into Kirsty’s room…
To be continued…


Monday, 12 September 2016

STOP PRESS: Ambridge reacts to sensational trial verdict

In this special edition, the Ambridge Observer reports on dramatic events in Borchester Crown Court yesterday and reactions in Ambridge as Helen Titchener walked free from custody, acquitted on the charge of attempting to murder her husband Rob.

Rob Titchener’s father Bruce had to be helped from the court after suffering what witnesses described as ‘a terrifying outburst’ of rage. ‘The longer the jury deliberated, the worse he got,’ said one. ‘He turned purple, his eyes were bulging, and he was snorting like a wild boar. When the verdict was finally announced, we thought he was going to explode. Paramedics were called, but his wife Ursula said she could calm him with a toad-in-the-hole she’d packed just in case.’

Helen Titchener’s mother Pat Archer said the family were ‘absolutely over the moon and delighted’ with the verdict. ‘Thank goodness – in the end it didn’t matter that I was completely useless from start to finish in this case,’ she said. ‘Of course, we now have a fight on our hands to ensure Henry and Jack stay with Helen. I’ll just have to hope I don’t mess that up as well.’ 

Neil Carter, chairman of Ambridge Parish Council, said Helen Titchener would be warmly welcomed back to the village. ‘Contrary to your report in last week’s paper, I did give evidence as a character witness for Helen,’ he said. ‘I just spoke very quietly and wore a wig so my wife Susan wouldn’t notice; she wasn’t keen, you see.’

Mr Carter’s wife Susan said the verdict was exactly what she had expected. ‘I always knew Helen would only do such a terrible thing in self-defence and that Rob would turn out to be an evil bully – I’ve said so all along,’ she said. ‘We can now put it all behind us and I can carry on working for Pat and Tony and forget I ever said Rob was a hero and Helen was a bit, well you know… troubled.’

Shula Hebden Lloyd described her reaction to the verdict as ‘bitter sweet’. ‘Of course, I’m delighted for Helen, but so many questions still remain about how appallingly I behaved, not speaking out about Rob sooner,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t even perjure myself properly. I thought I couldn’t torment myself any more about this, but I’m pleased to say I can.’

Brian Aldridge of Home Farm said his family were celebrating the news with an impromptu  champagne pool party. 'We're all thrilled,' he said. 'Although Adam has a face like a wet weekend. You'd think he'd be delighted that Rob might not be his new boss after all. But ever since Ian appeared in court you'd think a drone had crash-landed on his polytunnel.'  

Justin Elliott, chairman of Damara Capital, who last month appointed Rob Titchener as his estates manager, was unavailable. His office said he was in intense discussions with his social secretary and would be issuing a statement when they had worked out a position they were both comfortable with.  

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) said he was ‘relieved’ by the result. ‘In my evidence I had to report what I saw on the night of the attack, which certainly seemed more helpful to the prosecution,’ he said. ‘My partner Fallon, who is Helen’s friend, was upset by this and it was affecting our relationship – let’s just say things were getting a bit frosty in the bedroom department. But since the jury’s verdict we’ve been making up for lost time. It hasn’t done much for my conviction rate, but who cares?’

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was conducting an ‘urgent review’ of the case in the light of the rape allegations made against Mr Titchener by his wife Helen and his ex-wife Jessica Myers.
‘We stand by our decision to prosecute Mrs Titchener,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Though to be honest, off the record, our QC Michael Bywater wasn’t exactly devastated by the result. He’d had a taste of Rob Titchener’s temper and said he had a feeling he might be a wrong ’un. If we were to see Mr Titchener in the dock instead of the witness box one day it would be extra fig rolls all round here at the CPS.’

Don't miss next week’s Ambridge Observer! In a Flower and Produce Show special, we report on the controversial new category: ‘Make a vehicle out of vegetables’.