Sunday, 30 October 2016

The vicar reaches out, Toby branches out and panto war breaks out - a frisky week in Ambridge

Shepherd of St Stephen’s seeks lost sheep

News that attendances at Church of England services have sunk to a record low has prompted one local vicar to take drastic action.
The Revd Alan Franks of St Stephen’s, Ambridge, has launched an ambitious outreach programme to recruit new worshippers.
‘It’s not enough to focus on inward-looking events like the bell-ringers’ supper – but don’t put that in or it’ll upset Shula,’ he said. ‘We need to bring in the forgotten, the unforgiven, those on whom society has turned its back.’
The vicar said he had started by offering Rob Titchener a lift home from the village shop. ‘It was hard going,’ he admitted. ‘Mr Titchener said he was beyond redemption and accused me of acting out of guilt because my wife is evicting him from his cottage. And unfortunately, when the congregation heard Rob might be in church, they said they wouldn’t come. No good at all for Bishop Nick’s new attendance targets. I may have to seek out new parishioners who would be less controversial, like Pharisees and tax collectors.’

Panto wars: will Mother Goose be a turkey?

News that Lynda Snell is to produce a Christmas pantomime, which was greeted with delight by the community, (are you sure? Ed) turned sour this week as Ambridge was rocked by creative splits and boycotts.
‘It’s like Fete Gate all over again,’ said one shocked villager. ‘With Lynda called away to look after her grandson, Alice Carter stomped about with a clipboard on Apple Day, telling everyone the show was Cinderella, and signing up the whole Grundy family in starring roles. But then Lynda came back and said they were going to do Mother Goose instead. And the Grundys have said they’ll have nothing to do with it! It’s chaos already!’
Eddie Grundy of Grange Farm confirmed his family would play no part in a production of Mother Goose. ‘We was all looking forward to Cinderella, with a sitting-down part for Dad, and Clarrie being fairy godmother and that,’ he said. ‘But now it’ll just be one big advert for the Fairbrothers and their geese. It’s a slap in the face for our turkeys!’    
Contacted for comment, Mrs Snell said the row was due to a misunderstanding.
‘I was confident that leaving Kate in charge while I was away would ensure that absolutely nothing happened,’ she said. ‘How was I to know she would get Alice involved? She’s a lovely girl, and she made a strong case for Ed Grundy as Prince Charming. But she went slightly beyond her creative remit on this occasion.’
Mrs Snell said the Grundy family had ‘nothing to fear, business-wise’ from the production and hoped they would change their minds. ‘Although Emma had already been in touch to say Ed would not be available under any circumstances – not sure why,’ she said.   

Young gun keen to add value in Ambridge

Entrepreneur Toby Fairbrother says he is looking for ‘new opportunities to make pots and pots of money’ after leaving the poultry business he set up with his brother at Hollowtree, Ambridge.
‘Anyone can run a boring old farm or look after geese all day,’ he said. ‘People get annoyed at you for the littlest things, like forgetting to feed them. I’m looking for high-end products you can add value to. For instance, did you know the Grundys make artisan cider? And sloe gin? And they don’t even sell it because of some stupid hygiene and licensing rules. So what if it gives you gut rot? My rugby pals would pay a premium for that! And my girlfriend’s grandmother makes the most brilliant flapjacks. I could make a fortune with them. Slight logistical problem at the mo – she sets the dog on me when I go near the farmhouse – but I’m sure she’ll come round soon. I’m catnip to Archer women, if you know what I mean.’
Mr Fairbrother dismissed rumours that his new solo venture follows a row with his brother Rex. ‘Let’s just say that some people are sore losers in love. Anyone who tells you that Rex fired me by text and then punched me in the eye needs to get their facts straight,’ he said.

Ask Aunty Satya

She’s back! With her warm-hearted wisdom and forensic legal skills, Aunty Satya can sort out all your emotional and practical dilemmas.

Dear Aunty Satya,

My husband and I are trying to rebuild trust after he had a couple of affairs. We are giving our marriage another go but it is much harder than I thought. He seems to prefer spending all day out on his tractor rather than come home and talk to me. What can I do? Ian

Dear Ian,

I wish I could say that when your husband is out on his tractor you don’t need to worry about him being unfaithful, but you know from past experience that is not true. How about popping out to the field to surprise him with a flask and some sandwiches? This seems to sustain many farming marriages.

Dear Aunty Satya,

I have found out that my soon-to-be ex-husband wants to change our son’s name from Jack to Gideon. My father says that on contact visits, my husband sings ‘My son Gideon’ (to the tune of ‘My boy lollipop’) to the baby over and over again. My lawyer says he has little chance of success but he is so devious, I can’t help but worry. What do you think? Helen.

Dear Helen,

Please do not worry. Your husband clearly has an over-romanticised view of fatherhood. Before his next visit, feed your baby so that he produces an astonishingly smelly nappy within the first half hour (a tiny touch of garam masala in his formula might help). Changing his baby’s name will soon be the last thing on his mind.

Recipe of the week

Thanks to Susan Carter of Ambridge View for sending us this unusual starter.

Super-fruity face pack

Serves two, to share

A pair of creamy, ripe avocados
A good-sized, firm cucumber
Egg white, lightly whipped until slippery
Slightly warmed olive oil (definitely not extra-virgin)

• Put a pan of chilli on to get hot, hot, hot!
• Take all the starter ingredients and blitz them until nice and velvety.
• Using your fingers (make sure hubby washes his first) smooth the mixture all over each other’s faces – or anywhere that needs moisturising.
• Dim the lights, put on some Michael Bublé, relax and let nature take its course.

Susan writes: ‘Let’s just say this is the recipe for a VERY special evening – unless you’re interrupted by Shula coming round to chat about the bell-ringers’ supper of course.’


 Thank Grundys for turkeys!

Yeehaw! Yep, it’s nearly Thanksgiving time folks, and how better to celebrate this fine Borsetshire tradition (are you sure? Ed) than with a Grundy turkey – famous on both sides of the pond (on the village green that is).
Your specially raised Yankee Doodle Turkey will be delivered to your door wearing a ten-gallon hat and ready for roasting in the good ol’ Southern style with a can of beer stuck up its (That’ll do. We know where it goes. Ed.) Only £60, with a free Stars & Stripes painted elf for the kiddies!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ed advises, Rob complains and Lynda ponders: a ram-packed week in Ambridge

Tony’s a star at-tract-ion! (Rubbish headline. Ed)

Tony Archer of Bridge Farm, Ambridge, is set to achieve a lifetime’s ambition next month by starring in his favourite magazine.
‘When I bought my latest classic tractor – a cute little Fordson Major, the first model I ever drove – I emailed Tractor Talk and sent some pictures,’ said Mr Archer. ‘I was amazed when they rang and said they wanted us to be their cover story. My baby grandson Jack was asleep on my lap at the time, and I nearly dropped him!’
The editor of Tractor Talk, Axel Diff-Locke, said the magazine was ‘very excited’ by Mr Archer’s story. ‘Tony’s son lost his life on a vintage tractor, and the family’s facing £30,000 of legal bills, but he can’t wait to get his new Fordson into the workshop,’ he said. ‘Tony’s a man who’s got his priorities right. We’re proud to have him on the cover.’

Grundy wants his wisdom to go viral 

Local farm worker Ed Grundy is set to take the world of motivational speaking by storm as he records the first of his inspirational sales talks on video this week.
‘It’s all the idea of my mate Alice Carter,’ said a bemused but delighted Mr Grundy of Grange Farm. ‘She said the business advice I gave her was so cool I should do a TED Talk. I said didn’t she mean ED Talk, and she said that was even more brilliant and bought me another pint.
‘Anyway, we’re going to meet up next week and go through my lines. It’s simple stuff I’ve picked up in my contracting work, like “People have a relationship with people, not with technology” and “Don’t take leaflets round Borchester Market, you’ll only drop them in the slurry".'
Mr Grundy said the first of his ED Talks would be shown on EweTube (are you sure? Ed. No, not that Ed. Editor) and the whole family was looking forward to it. ‘My wife Emma is fine with Alice taking so much interest in me,’ he said. ‘Yeah, totally fine. Fine.’

Ambridge Christmas show: have your say!

Ambridge impresario Lynda Snell and her assistant director Kate Madikane are inviting Ambridge Observer readers to vote on which show they should stage this Christmas. ‘Inevitably, with a new partnership, there is a certain amount of creative tension, which in this case has led to a temporary impasse,’ said Mrs Snell. ‘We have decided on a traditional pantomime with a modern twist, but which one?’
Mrs Snell and Ms Madikane have come up with a shortlist of five (below). Cast your vote to have the final say!

• Mother Goose. This hilarious tale features knockabout comedy from two foolish brothers, and a grumpy grandmother in the title role, who refuses to let her granddaughter have any of her golden flapjacks because she has fallen in love with one of the brothers.

• Aladdin. A young man meets a kind genie who grants two of his wishes – for smart clothes and magic photographs that make him look handsome. But she cannot grant his last wish – for true love – because she is not a miracle-worker.

• Sleeping Beauty. A lovely young princess sets up a holistic spa but pricks her finger on a yurt pole and falls asleep for 100 years, much to the annoyance of her father Baron Hard-Up, as sadly no prince arrives to wake her.

• Babes in the Wood. Two little boys, Henry and Jack, are in danger from the Demon King after they escape from his castle. But they are kept safe by their comedy uncles Tom and Johnny and their mother’s magic cheese.

• Hansel and Gretel. As their mother is too busy to look after them, Hansel leads Gretel into the wood, where their grandmother has made a cottage out of flapjacks. The twins go inside and eat so much they cannot get out and have to be rescued by Iftikar the Maths Magician.

Local vet faces hunting backlash

Our interview last week with vet Alistair Lloyd has unleashed a storm of protest from the anti-hunting lobby.
In the article, Mr Lloyd revealed he is selling his veterinary practice partly to fund his wife’s ambition to become joint master of the South Borsetshire Hunt.
But animal welfare campaigners have accused him of ‘rank hypocrisy’, and members of Borsetshire against Hunting (BAH) gathered outside his surgery at The Stables, Ambridge, this week to protest.
‘How can someone whose career is about saving animals help finance a sport that’s all about killing them?’ said a spokesperson. ‘The law makes no difference; we all know foxes still get killed. Lloyd should be ashamed of himself.’
BAH are urging pet owners to boycott Mr Lloyd’s new employer, Lovell James of Felpersham, in a bid to stop the sale going ahead.
Mr Lloyd was unavailable for comment but his wife, livery stables owner Shula Hebden Lloyd, said the protest was ‘embarrassing and unnecessary’.
‘Our current Master, Oliver, warned me there was a downside to the position but I never expected anything like this,’ she said. ‘No wonder he’s off to Tuscany. Now, would you get out of the way please; my mother is trying to get through with a game pie and a batch of flapjacks.’

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I really must complain about falling standards in Ambridge’s retail outlets. This week I have experienced appalling service in The Bull, where it seemed no one wanted to take my order for a pint and a roast dinner, even though I attempted to be public-spirited by stepping into an ugly row between the Fairbrother clowns. I was pointedly ignored in the village shop, and in the Abridge Tea Room, where I am forced to spend three hours at a time with Myson Gideon, my tea usually arrives cold, or not at all. 
As you may know I am recovering from surgery and my mother has gone home to Hampshire. It seems Ambridge is showing its true, nasty colours at last, just like the Archer family and their…


• Mauve dress; maternity tops; “Your Guide to a Home Birth”, “50 ways with Toad in the Hole”; Little Miss Giggly mug; wedding ring; ball and chain. Free to anyone who will take them away. Contact Helen Archer, Bridge Farm.
• Vintage mangle. Family heirloom. Would benefit from upcycling. Reluctant sale to pay vets’ fees for our Granddad’s dear old pony. £200. Contact Eddie Grundy, Grange Farm.
• Portrait photographer wanted. Must understand mature women’s skin tone, flattering lighting and tasteful poses that do not need stars to be stuck on afterwards. Contact Susan Carter, Ambridge View.    

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Rob loiters, Bert rhymes, Shula dreams and Lynda finds a new muse: an eventful week in Ambridge

Police warn of ‘scary clown’ craze

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has asked residents to be vigilant following reports of ‘sinister clowns’ seen in and around Ambridge this week.
‘So far, these incidents have had an innocent explanation, but you can’t be too careful,’ he said. ‘Someone reported a clown in a comedy car with a ridiculous horn, but it turned out to be Toby Fairbrother.
‘And there was a sighting of a ‘robot-like’ figure with terrifying sticky-up hair, but on closer inspection this was Roy Tucker, who’d overdone the hair gel and was wearing some stiff new chinos, which were chafing and making him walk funny.
‘Most disturbing were the reports of a couple – a man with an older woman – who spent some time loitering on the Green. Witnesses said the man looked grim-faced and determined, as if he were plotting a malicious prank. And the woman was egging him on.
‘I was able to approach them and realised it was Rob Titchener and his mother Ursula. I asked Mrs Titchener to remove her fright wig and red nose, but she said she’d just been to Fabrice and had a slight cold. It was all rather embarrassing, especially after our row at the cricket last week. Mind how you go now…’

Close call for renowned critic

A performance of ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ by Felpersham Light Opera Society was interrupted last week as theatre critic Tristram Hawkshaw was taken ill.
Mr Hawkshaw was rushed to Borchester General Hospital by ambulance, but was discharged after tests.
‘It ruined a delightful evening,’ said Mr Hawkshaw, who is recovering at home. ‘Dear Jean Harvey and I had enjoyed a light pre-theatre supper and were looking forward to our pink gins in the interval, when I made the disastrous error of checking my phone. That woman Lynda Snell had texted me – texted me! – with the news that she is to direct an Ambridge Christmas show, and has recruited Kate Madikane as her assistant.
‘Suddenly everything went black,’ said Mr Hawkshaw. ‘Memories of last year’s ‘Calendar Girls’ came flooding back and I felt as if I were having a heart attack. The thought of another evening in that draughty hall, subjected to Mrs Snell’s theatrical abominations, was too much.’
However, Mr Hawkshaw said doctors had diagnosed anxiety and that, with counselling, he should be fit enough to review the Ambridge production later this year. ‘To quote dear Dame Judi, “The show must go on, darling”,’ he said.

Service engineers threaten fines for no-shows

Borsetshire’s largest domestic appliance company has said it will introduce penalty charges for appointments that are cancelled without notice.
‘Customers don’t seem to realise that call-outs to rural locations cost time and money,’ said a spokesperson for ‘This week for example, our engineer drove all the way from Smethwick to Honeysuckle Cottage, Ambridge, to look at a washing machine. When he knocked at the door there was no answer, so he peered through the kitchen window and waved his spanner set at the two gentlemen inside. They clearly did not want to be disturbed as there was a touching scene of reconciliation going on. But determined not to leave customers with a poorly-draining drum, our engineer persisted and one of the gentlemen came to the door. But he was unable to gain entrance as the other gentleman shouted: “Ian, come back darling – I’ve fired up the hot tub! Let’s party!’ and the door was shut in his face.
‘We have no wish to intrude on customers’ private lives but that call was a write-off,’ said the spokesperson. ‘Love is all very well, but it won’t keep our engineers in diesel.’

‘I’m not bitter’ – Borsetshire laureate

Local poet Bert Fry has denied that he harbours any resentment after being overlooked for the Nobel Prize for Literature this week.
‘I send Mr Dylan hearty congratulations and I want to set the record straight in the best way I know how – in rhyme,’ he said. Thank you for these gracious lines, Bert!

When they announced the Nobel Prize
For Literature, I was surprised
When mates said: ‘Bert Fry, you were robbed –
It never should have gone to Bob!’
For while I find my verse fulfillin’
I’m not a patch on Mr Dylan!
I’m happy in my bungalow;
This stone stopped rolling long ago.
And if my odes make someone’s day
I could not wish for higher praise.
The vicar says, for what it’s worth,
We shouldn’t seek reward on earth.
My prize awaits in Heaven above,
When I’ll see again my own true love.

Coffee break with… Alistair Lloyd

 This week, in our series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we book an appointment with local vet Alistair Lloyd.

Q Do you specialise as a vet, or are you more of a GP?

A As a single-vet practice, you have to be an expert on every creature you might meet, from cows to cockatiels! My practice nurse Denise deals with some of the small animal work, but most days you’ll find me on a farm somewhere. And yes, quite often I’ll have an arm up a cow’s backside! It all helps pay the bills.

Q What about more exotic animals? Are there many of those locally?

A Oh yes – only this week, for instance, I had to look after a llama with toothache and a bad spitting habit. And a squirrel fell off a bird table. That was nasty. There are ferrets, the local pub has a peacock, and there’s a rumour that Barry Simmons keeps a bearded dragon – but if so, it’s had no problems so far.

Q Is it difficult being a one-person practice?

A Yes, very. My wife Shula tells me she can’t remember the last time I had a day off. In fact, between you, me and the gatepost, I’m considering an offer for the practice. Becoming an employee rather than a sole practitioner. There’s a lot to be said for it: proper holidays, a pension, and a nice white coat with my name embroidered on it. Shula’s always too busy to do that sort of thing for me.

Q What do you do to relax?

A I enjoy cricket, though I’m a bit past it now. And we’re very horsey – my wife loves hunting. In fact, it’s her dream to become a joint master of the South Borsetshire, so if I did sell the practice, the cash would come in very handy. Anyway, must dash – got to do some AI over at Penny Hassett. Now, where did I put that bull semen? There’s only milk left in this fridge. Oh God, not again! Pass me your coffee mug, would you?