Sunday, 27 March 2016

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL OUR READERS! (Except you, Rob Titchener)

Henhouse fire probe is no yolk  

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has blamed ‘public apathy’ for the lack of progress into investigating an arson attack at Hollowtree, near Brookfield Farm in Ambridge.
‘I can’t understand it,’ said PC Burns. ‘No one seems to care about the destruction  of a mobile henhouse belonging to two entitled, irritating hobby farmers, Toby and Rex Fairbrother, and their obnoxious young business partner Josh Archer.’
PC Burns said that nearly a week after the fire, he is no nearer finding who had poured petrol into the henhouse and set it alight. ‘Our only lead is that Toby Fairbrother was seen dropping litter shortly before the fire, so I shall be interviewing Kirstie Allsopp,’ he said. ‘Otherwise, I’m appealing to people to think of the poor hens, who are having to live in a caravan recently vacated by the Fairbrothers. It’s shocking to keep birds in such conditions. I hope someone will come forward soon.’ 

Rewards for Ambridge entrepreneurs

Two local businesspeople are celebrating this week after being publicly recognised for their achievements:
• Elizabeth Pargetter of Lower Loxley said she was ‘thrilled and delighted’ at being shortlisted for the prestigious Borsetshire Businesswoman of the Year award. ‘I owe it all to Lilian Bellamy,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how she persuaded Justin Elliott, the sponsor, to nominate me, but whatever she did, it worked!’  
• Ed Grundy of Grange Farm is now a qualified crop-sprayer after successfully completing a gruelling two-day course at Borchester College. ‘I’m so proud of him,’ said his mother Mrs Clarrie Grundy. ‘I’ve put his diploma on the wall, next to our William’s 25-metre swimming certificate and little George’s ‘I didn’t steal Granny Clarrie’s money like my Uncle Alf today’ sticker from school.’      

My Easter week, by Henry Titchener, aged 5 


I went to Daddy’s shop and made a pyramid with jam like in Egypt. In the car Daddy told me I was going to a new school where I would live with other boys and see Mummy and Daddy in the holidays. I told him I like adventures but I don’t really. He told me not to tell Mummy about it but Mrs Baines at school says secrets are bad.


Today Mummy and me and granny Ursula went to tea at my grandma Pat’s house. They were upset because I said I hated Mummy for sending me away. Mummy said Daddy was very bad and she shouted a lot. Then she went off in our car and grandma Pat went in her car with granny Ursula too. I played football with Granddad and Uncle Tom.


Mummy came to play with me today. I told her she was no fun because all she does is go to sleep and then go weird and she is going to send me away. Mummy cried and said that would never happen and I would live with her forever. I said what about Daddy and she said let’s play with your game now. I told Mummy I’d look after her and she cried some more.
Granny Ursula went home today. Mummy didn’t know so we didn’t say goodbye. I was glad. I liked her when she came because she gave me toys but now I don’t because her dinners aren’t nice and her teeth are funny.
I went to Grandma Pat’s. We made jam tarts. When I came home Mummy wasn’t crying. She said she had talked to someone on the phone and she was much better. She got Daddy to make supper.

Ask the Garden Expert 

Will you be out digging and planting this Easter weekend? We asked Rose Blight, manager of the Felpersham Garden Centre, to answer readers’ questions:

Q I’m opening my garden to the public in June and the prospect is, frankly, overwhelming. There is so much expectation on my shoulders; I can sense the whole village holding its breath. I feel like a Druid, faced with designing Stonehenge. Even choosing the lettering for my ‘Resurgam’ cornerstone is giving me sleepless nights. What should I do? Lyndy, Ambridge.

A: Don’t worry Lyndy! Take a deep breath and remember that when the public visit a garden, all they want is what we professionals call ‘see, tea and wee’. Give them a quick tour, then pop the kettle on and point them to the Portaloo behind the greenhouse. You’ll be fine!

Q: I’m opening my garden to the public in June as a memorial to my Queen, my late wife Freda. My friend Carol Tregorran suggested putting flowering annuals in my vegetable patch, to brighten the area up. What do you think? Bert, Brookfield.

A: It sounds lovely, Bert, but I know Carol, and I’d be a little bit cautious about letting her choose your plants. Members of the public might take them home to make soup, and we wouldn’t want any more fatal accidents, would we?

Crossword solution

If you’re still puzzling over the crossword in our March 6 issue, here are the answers! Thanks to ‘Ophelia’ for her clever compilation and apologies for the delay.
Across: 4. Footstool  6. Hoe  7. Jenny  9. Tea room  10. Call The Midwife  11. Freda Fry
Down: 1. Pat  2. Frozen pizza  3. Home Alone  5. Fairbrothers  8. Pillow talk

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Wayne’s on song, Rob’s on a mission and Kirsty’s on the case: a nail-biting week in Ambridge

It’s a hit! Birthday song goes viral

Ambridge has been besieged by pop fans this week as an amateur recording of a birthday party song went viral.
‘Eddie, the Prince of Grundys’ by Wayne Tucson has had more than a million hits on EweTube (sorry. Ed) since party guest Josh Archer uploaded the song to the internet from his smartphone.
‘I had no idea it would be such a smash hit,’ said Mr Tucson. ‘I just wrote down a few words for my old mate Eddie’s 65th birthday. The lines came easily to me – like ‘Clarrie says he’s cuddly as a teddy’ and ‘his cider makes men go unsteady’. Just natural talent I guess.’
Like Justin Bieber’s Beliebers and Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, Mr Tucson already has his own army of fans, mainly middle-aged ladies, who call themselves ‘Waynettas’ and wear cowboy hats with horns.
Mr Tucson is now considering offers to play the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and a concert on the roof of Buckingham Palace for HM The Queen’s 90th birthday. ‘It’s tempting, but Jolene’ll have my guts for guitar strings if The Bull runs out of sourdough rolls,’ he said.  

Pageant to tackle modern issues 

Local impresario Lynda Snell is promising a ‘bold, edgy treatment’ for her production of EM Forster’s England’s Pleasant Land, which will celebrate the re-opening of Ambridge Village Hall.
‘I have taken the liberty of adapting the script to reflect the concerns of today’s society,’ she said. ‘To end the play, the cast will hold up a huge banner reading: “Coercive and controlling behaviour in a relationship is now a criminal offence”. They will then parade the banner round the green before handing it to Neil Carter and his son Chris, who will climb ladders (held by their wives Susan and Alice) and fix it to the roof of the Village Hall.
‘This is a very important message,’ said Mrs Snell. ‘You can’t be too subtle about it. I’m sure Mr Forster would have approved.’
• In other pageant news, Mrs Snell has denied any suggestion of political point-scoring in her casting choices. ‘It’s all pure coincidence,’ she said. ‘Just take a look at the cast list and see…’

Squire and Mrs George, wellmeaning but selfish landowners:
Brian and Jennifer Aldridge
Squire Jeremiah, rapacious and unscrupulous encloser of lands:
Justin Elliott
Jack and Jill, humble and hard-done-by workers:
Ed and Emma Grundy
The Recorder, pompous prophet of doom:
Jim Lloyd
Mr Bumble, hapless local official:
PC Harrison Burns  

Schools warn of fraudsters posing as parents

The Boarding Schools Union has warned its members to increase security after a suspicious couple visited SpareTheRod House in north Borsetshire this week.
‘A Mr Rob Titchener and his mother Ursula came to enquire about a place for Mr Titchener’s son Henry, who is five,’ said headmaster Dr D. Tention. ‘I assumed they wanted to put his name down, but they asked if he could start next term! I explained we never take boys under seven but Mr Titchener cried. It was quite a tantrum, actually. He said being terrified and neglected in childhood was good enough for him, so why not Henry?
‘It then transpired that Henry’s mother knew nothing about the visit, and Mr Titchener is not the boy’s father, although he has some parental rights.
‘Of course, I showed them the door, but I’d advise all schools to be wary. These two are clearly a pair of distraction burglars, or worse, and should have nothing to do with the education of small boys.’

My working week

In our occasional series featuring local residents who have interesting jobs, we interview Isla Makim-Stopp of the Felpersham women’s centre.

Q Are domestic violence and abuse common in Borsetshire?

A Oh yes, far more so than you’d think. It’s not confined to any age or social group.

Q How do women get in touch with you?

A Women can call our 24-hour helpline in complete anonymity. Even then, some are too scared to tell the truth. This week, for example, I heard from a woman calling herself ‘Kirsty’, who said she was asking for a friend. This is very common.

Q Were you able to help?

A I’m not sure. Kirsty described a relationship where the woman had been made to feel the abuse was her fault, that she’d brought it on herself. This is also common. I explained that controlling and coercive behaviour is now a criminal offence, as well as physical violence of course. All I could do was reassure her – or her friend – that we are there for her when she is ready. I hope she got the message.

Q  What other kinds of calls do you get?

A Well, not every caller understands what we do. Also this week, for instance, I had a call from ‘Kate’, complaining that her father had locked the office door so she couldn’t do her photocopying free of charge. I had to explain that this isn’t ‘abuse’ as such. She was quite cross though.

Egg ends up on faces at breakfast

There were ugly scenes at the Borsetshire Business Breakfast Forum this week as hungry guests blamed the sponsors for bungling the catering arrangements.
‘We were promised pastured eggs from the Fairbrothers’ new business at Hollowtree, and Bridge Farm sausages,’ said one furious guest. ‘But all we got was a PowerPoint presentation about their mobile henhouse and a few leftover wedding canapés from the Ambridge Tearoom.’
‘We are very sorry, but it was an easy mistake to make,’ said Toby Fairbrother, who organised the event. ‘I’m like, so passionate about our cool new brand that I just, like, forgot we don’t have any eggs yet.
‘And I’d asked Pip Archer to get us some sausages from her cousin Tom, but she was busy Skyping Matthew the Magic Milker in Cumbria and forgot. Come on, no biggie, guys!’
Rex Fairbrother, Toby’s brother, said he would personally deliver a box of the high-welfare pastured eggs to each guest to apologise, as soon as they had supplies. ‘And it’s quite wrong to blame Pip for the sausages,’ he said. ‘She’s a really lovely girl.’ 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Curtains go up, Kenton cleans up and Rob hits a new low – a truly shocking week in Ambridge

Village Hall curtains set for grand opening

Ambridge residents say they are ‘delighted’ with their refurbished Village Hall, which is on schedule for re-opening at Easter. ‘Everyone’s worked so hard,’ said Mrs Susan Carter. ‘The new curtains look lovely, the walls are freshly plastered, the parquet floor is beautiful. It’s a shame we had to have Jennifer Aldridge’s second-hand kitchen units. I think they’ve still got a whiff of mouldy venison casserole. But that’s probably just me.’
However, plans to involve junior villagers in decorating the hall have been cancelled at the last minute. ‘We asked the Brownies to express themselves with a wall of ‘street art,’ said Mrs Lynda Snell. ‘But once we let the Button girls loose with the spray cans, the results were appalling. Even Toby Fairbrother didn’t know some of the words. And he plays rugby.’

Pub saves village ‘Clean for the Queen’ campaign

A TV celebrity has praised Kenton Archer of The Bull for rescuing a litter-picking event to mark HM The Queen’s 90th birthday. ‘Everyone wanted to turn out on Sunday to help, but there was a problem – no litter!’ said Mr Archer. ‘Ambridge is far too tidy. So while everyone was enjoying our delicious Mother’s Day lunch menu, I nipped out and emptied the pub’s wheely bins all over the green. Result! It was like an Easter egg hunt, only more smelly. And the tills were ringing when punters came in for a drink afterwards.’
‘Mr Archer is a Royalist after my own heart,’ said Ms Kirstie Allsopp of Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas. ‘Handmade rubbish: perfectly on brand! Let everyone carry out their Royal duty with a litter-picker and a bin bag!’
Stop press: Ambridge will celebrate the Queen’s official birthday in June with two events, this paper can reveal. A ‘battle of the picnics’ between Lynda Snell’s Open Garden at Ambridge Hall, and a free-for-all on the village green, was declared a draw after it was agreed both parties should go ahead. ‘It threatened to get ugly for a while,’ said one resident, ‘but even Lynda had to admit that the whole village couldn’t squeeze into her shepherd’s hut. And apparently, Eddie Grundy’s made it so badly it’ll collapse as soon as Scruff cocks his leg on it.’

‘Missing teenager’ found safe and well

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) reported this week that a missing schoolgirl who’d been reported hanging round the bus stop in Ambridge had been reunited with her father.
‘People who’d seen Sasha Locke were concerned for her welfare,’ said PC Burns. ‘But fortunately Mrs Elizabeth Pargetter recognised her as the daughter of Dr Richard Locke, and drove her to his surgery in Felpersham.
‘Sasha had been subjected to extreme patronising by Mrs Pargetter but was otherwise unharmed,’ said PC Burns. ‘And Dr Locke was delighted as it gave him an excuse to nip round to Lower Loxley with a bunch of daffs and a winning smile.’ 

Recipe of the week

Ursula Titchener, who is staying at Blossom Hill Cottage, writes: ‘As no one in Ambridge seems to know how to make toad in the hole, especially my ‘unconventional’ daughter-in-law Helen, I thought I’d send my own recipe in. That’s reasonable, isn’t it, Editor?’  Absolutely, Ursula! Thank you.

Six meaty pork sausages*
A pound of beef dripping
Pancake batter

1.     Melt the dripping in a pan and fry the sausages in it. Ignore any silly suggestions to use less fat, or swap for olive oil. It might be healthier but won’t taste as good!
2.     Forget to buy vegetables on purpose.
3.     When the batter is ready, remember you need to go to the shop to buy vegetables. Instruct your daughter-in-law to take over.
4.     Just before you leave, turn the gas up to 250 deg C.
5.     When you get back, blame your daughter-in-law for burning the dinner.
6.     Have a quick high-five with your son and open a tin of beans for supper.

* Not Bridge Farm sausages. I shouldn’t say it, but there’s something not quite nice about them. I prefer Waitrose.

The Trials of Rob Titchener

In the latest chapter of our romantic saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero is driven to desperate measures…

Rob couldn’t help smiling to himself as he sorted out the pak choi. What was it his old house-master, Mr Trafford, had said? ‘Delighted to have young Henry boarding with us, old chap, if he can throw a dummy pass like you!’ There wasn’t much chance of that with Henry – not with Helen mollycoddling him – but his own son! He was already kicking his mother like a fly half…
Rob was severely tempted to drop-kick one of Tony’s scabby organic cabbages into the café when Lynda Snell burst in, smirking at him flirtatiously. God, why did these hideous old cows all fancy him? ‘Lynda!’ he purred, flashing his most charming smile. ‘Oh Rob,’ she simpered. ‘You really must come to my Open Garden party in June. As the hero of the flood…’  Still smiling, Rob tuned her out. Hero of the flood! If only the silly mare knew…


‘What do you mean, you don’t like having mum here?’ Rob felt a cold fury rising in his brain. Why couldn’t Helen just shut up and do what she was told? Didn’t she realise how dangerous it was to make him feel like this?
He paced up and down in the bedroom, trying to block out his wife’s tremulous voice. Some rubbish about feeling stifled in her own home, about Henry not being her own little boy any more. Ha! As if anyone would want that whiny milksop anyway. He forced himself to look at Helen. She was twisting a handkerchief in her hands, and seemed defiant, which annoyed him, but also frightened. It was her fear that filled him with disgust. ‘Look what I ended up with!’ he spat. ‘You’re a wreck. I’m amazed you were ever allowed to bring Henry into this world!’
Suddenly Helen flew at him. ‘You utter bastard….’ She’d gone too far. All this time she’d kept on annoying him, provoking him, forcing him into a corner… His hand shot out as if it had a mind of its own. Helen crumpled onto the bed, clutching her face. Oh God, now look what she’d made him do. He loved her, didn’t he? Why did she have to ruin everything? He turned on his heel and left the room.    


‘Rob? Rob?’ Helen’s gentle tapping on the door enraged him and he made his sobs louder. She came in. ‘Oh Rob, I’m so sorry… It’s my fault, I did try to hit you…’  This was more like it. Some contrition. The spirit she was so determined to crush in him rose again. ‘Oh, darling,’ he sighed. ‘All I wanted was to have my old Helen back. The one I saw alone, and vulnerable, and fertile, and wealthy. But how can we bring a child into this mess?’
‘Is there really something that wrong with me?’ Helen’s long hair fell onto her tear-stained face. He wanted to strangle her with it. ‘Yes, darling, I’m afraid so,’ he said gently. ‘It’s time we got you some proper psychiatric help.’
Leaving her to think about that, he went downstairs. Ursula would have the kettle on.                         To be continued…

Lavinia, this is dark stuff. Any hope of a happy ending? Ed.
I’ll see what I can do dear. Probably not yet. Lavinia. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Justin invests, Emma protests and who's acting in Helen's interests? ... A chilling week in Ambridge

Elliott aims to raise his profile

Justin Elliott of Damara Capital has been revealed as the headline sponsor of Borsetshire’s prestigious Businesswoman of the Year Awards.
‘This year’s prize fund will be bigger than ever and entrants will have to work hard to impress me,’ said Mr Elliott. ‘As part of the application process I’m introducing a Calendar Girls round, inspired by the delicious Jennifer Aldridge (Miss March in the triumphant 2016 calendar).
‘All the shortlisted candidates will be asked to attend a private photoshoot, in which they will pose tastefully with a prop that represents their business, while I fire hard-headed questions at them. It will be like Dragons’ Den, only nude. Ding dong!’
The sponsorship deal was brokered by Mr Elliott’s social secretary, Lilian Bellamy. ‘Mr Elliott is determined to ease his way into the local community, starting with the Businesswoman of the Year,’ she said. ‘It’s very exciting!’ 

‘Astonishing’ success rates for local police

Borsetshire’s rural crime unit (PC Harrison Burns) has announced a dramatic increase in clear-up rates for recorded crimes in the first two months of 2016.
‘We’ve made real progress since my girlfriend’s father, Wayne Tucson, started work at The Bull,’ said PC Burns. ‘We got on so well when I arrested him last summer that we’ve agreed I’ll arrest him for every reported crime. We have a chat, I let him off with a caution, and we have a pint and one of Fallon’s cinnamon hot cross buns. Job’s a good ’un. I reckon I’ll be a detective soon.’

Ferrets ‘safe’ after cruelty alert

Borsetshire Ferret Welfare has said it will not be reporting a local family for cruelty offences after responding to neighbours’ concerns.
‘Residents reported hearing loud squeaks and raised voices at Grange Farm, so we sent a patrol out,’ said a spokesperson. ‘We found two ferrets caught up in a domestic incident between Mr Ed Grundy and his wife Emma. She was objecting to Mr Grundy clipping the ferrets’ claws in their bedroom and allowing the ferrets, Adele and Hercules, to nest in their pillows.
‘Fortunately, we were able to show Mrs Grundy this week’s Hello! Magazine, in which Victoria and David Beckham pose with their favourite ferrets, Ryan and Giggs.
‘Mrs Grundy was quickly reassured that ferrets are, like, totally on trend, and Adele and Hercules were none the worse for their ordeal.’

How does Lynda’s garden grow?

In an unprecedented move, an Ambridge garden has been selected to join the Borsetshire Open Gardens Scheme, even though it is still in the planning stages.
‘We were so excited by the ‘Resurgam’ garden that Lynda and Robert Snell are designing at Ambridge Hall that we signed it up straightaway,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Visitors will love the allergen-free garden and the Shakespearean garden. But it was the delightful prospect of the shepherd’s hut, in a grove of rowan, birch and a wayfaring tree, that is truly inspired.’
 Mrs Snell said she was ‘delighted’ at the accolade. ‘After the devastation of the flood, many gardeners might have settled for decking and concrete, but not Robert and I!’ she said. ‘We are going to work with Nature, not against her. Resurgam means ‘I shall rise again’ and just like St Paul’s Cathedral, our shepherd’s hut will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Eddie Grundy’s shed. I have complete confidence in him.’  

Who are Ambridge’s favourite mums?

With Mothering Sunday here again, we ask three Ambridge sons to tell us why their mother deserves to be ‘Mum of the Year’:

David Archer, Brookfield: ‘My mother Jill works tirelessly for the family and makes the best simnel cake in Ambridge. And you should see her cherry Genoas! Sadly my wife Ruth lost her mum last year; it’s her first Mother’s Day without Heather. Not that we ever saw her on Mother’s Day, but still. So we’re going to make a big fuss of my mum instead.’

Tom Archer, Bridge Farm: ‘Pat, my mum, has a lot on her plate at the moment – mainly spinach and lentils, as she’s keen for us all to eat healthily. My sister Helen is pregnant and I was a bit worried she might not be happy at home. But mum is great at reassuring me. She trusts Helen’s husband Rob completely and she’s welcomed his mum Ursula into the family, even though she’s only met her once. That’s my mum for you. Always sees the best in people.’

Rob Titchener, Blossom Hill Cottage: ‘My mother Ursula is definitely Mum of the Year in our house. She always was: just look at the man I’ve turned out to be! I wish I could say the same of my wife Helen, but frankly she’s all over the place. Not bothering to wash her hair, snapping at our little boy Henry, and even forgetting to cool his bath water so he nearly scalded his foot, poor little chap.
‘If my mum wasn’t here to take over the chores and the childcare, and chuck out Helen’s useless eco-friendly cleaning products, I simply don’t know where we’d be. She’s agreed to stay on until our new baby’s born to stop Helen being so sloppy, confused and – I hate to say this – unkind to Henry. Thank goodness. With Ursula on hand, we have one good mother in the family, heh?’

The Ambridge Observer non-jumbo, no-prize crossword

This week’s crossword compiler is ‘Ophelia’, from Cardiff. Thank you very much Ophelia: Alcibiades is looking to his laurels…


4. Lo! Too soft! In tartan. (9)
6. Funny house-warming gift. Ho! Ho! Ho! (3)
7. Miss March sets Brian spinning. (5)
9. Order more oat cakes etc. at Bridge Farm. (3,4)
10. Titchener family motto and favourite Sunday night TV show? (4,3,7)
11. Late silent supercook told to start breakfasts. (5,3)


1. Recently retired from farming and motherhood. (3)
2. Ruth's signature dish. (6,5)
3. Film for Helen last Sunday morning. (4,5)
5. Blond siblings? (12)
8. Ed and Emma's cosy chat re Hercules' hiding place. (6,4)

Answers to last week’s crossword:

Across: 1. Hut 3. Skirts 6. Pageant 8. Kirstie 9. Yes
Down: 2. Ursula 4. Rex and Toby 5. Scotch eggs 6. Porky 7. Go green