So farewell then, 2017! It was a year to remember in Ambridge - but just in case you've forgotten already, here are a few of the highlights, as (unfaithfully) reported in the Ambridge Observer:
Tom and Kirsty were romantically involved on and off the stage…
Triumphant panto run ends in real-life drama
The last night of Mother Goose in Ambridge ended with a standing ovation on Friday as the hero and heroine used their final scene to share some sensational off-stage news.
‘At first I feared that Kirsty Miller and Tom Archer, playing Colinette and Colin, were following Kenton Archer’s bad example with mischievous improvisation,’ said director Lynda Snell. ‘But as the story unfolded, it was impossible to be churlish. After all, it was art, imitating life, imitating art, imitating life – a hallmark of my most successful productions. And the audience loved it!’
Miss Miller began the impromptu revelation by declaring:
‘Colin, do you recall the fateful day,
when after the trial we slipped away
and made sweet music in your car?
Well, it seems we went too far!
For now I’ve found that I’m expecting –
and it’s yours, in case you were suspecting!’
Mr Archer, clearly stunned, responded:
‘I swear, I’ll help you all I can!
Oh Colinette – let’s see the scan!
Our baby – gosh, how proud I feel –
it beats having your own brand of ready meals!’
Pat Archer, Mr Archer’s mother, said she was ‘surprised, but delighted’ at the news. ‘It’s not every day you hear you’re going to be a granny in rhyming couplets,’ she said. ‘But I always hoped Tom and Kirsty would get together again. It’s a shame my husband Tony couldn’t be here, but he’s at home fitting his new brake shoes on his Fordson.’
The unscripted finale marked the end of a triumphant run for Mother Goose, which was a hit with audiences and critics alike (see Reviews, below).
… and Jill had a reluctant reconciliation with Pip’s boyfriend Toby Fairbrother:
Thanks to Jill Archer of Brookfield for sending us her recipe for Special Celebratory Flapjacks. ‘I made these as a gift for my granddaughter and her boyfriend Toby, with whom I haven’t always seen eye to eye,’ writes Mrs Archer. ‘I believe in cooking from the heart, and I like to think this recipe will bring us together.’ You said it, Jill!
1 old prune
250g Toby-gets-his oats
250g self-centred flour (Fairbrother’s)
4 tbsp nuts, crushed if possible
250g artificial sweetener
3 eggs (reserve the shells for treading on)
250g butter-wouldn’t melt-in-that-man’s-mouth
1 tbsp olive-branch oil
A large pinch of salt
Meddle (surely ‘muddle’? Ed) all the ingredients together round a dinner table until you have a stiff, awkward mix. Smooth over any cracks with a thick coating of sugar, and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands (the ones Toby is stealing from Pip, you mark my words).
Remember to say Grace before serving.
Rob Titchener’s escape to the USA got Ambridge residents talking…
• Justin Elliott, Damara Capital: Mr Titchener is a former employee and I have no comment to make. Except to say that I understand rumours are circulating that when Mr Titchener was employed at Berrow Farm in 2015, he was responsible for the Ambridge flood. Damara Capital denies all knowledge of this and our lawyers will be studying any suggestions of wrongdoing very closely.
• Rev Alan Franks, St Stephen’s Church: I am very sorry to hear this news, but to be honest I am not surprised. Rob is a troubled soul, although I tried to reach out to him. But when he didn’t attend my last ‘Blokes, Bacon Butties and Bible Breakfast’ I was afraid we had lost him.
• Lily Pargetter, Lower Loxley: Is it true Rob was stuck in the lane because of a fallen tree? So, basically, he got caught because he couldn’t do a three-point turn? How lame. I’ve only just started driving and I can do a three-point turn without even slowing down. Ask my Uncle David.
• Saskia Waitrose, Penny Hassett: I’m completely appalled. My son Elijah was expecting Henry Archer to come over for organic pizza and Transformers, but he didn’t turn up and his mummy didn’t even phone to let me know. So selfish. Elijah and I will be working through his issues on this for weeks.
• Tracy Horrobin, Ambridge: Ooh, so Rob Titchener’s definitely single now? He sounds more exciting than Roy Tucker. And they’ve got the same initials, so no need to change my new tattoo. Look: RT4EVA. Have you got his number?
…. And Lilian and Justin’s affair had tongues wagging
Dear Auntie Satya,
My lover and I were sharing a romantic breakfast of salami and Double Gloucester earlier this week, when his wife returned unexpectedly. I had to make a run for it wearing only my fur coat, negligée and his wellies, while he desperately tried to put the cork back in his Dom Pérignon. My friend Jolene says I should press him for a more permanent arrangement, but to be honest all the subterfuge makes me feel young, darling. What do you think? Lilian.
I am all for joie de vivre, but your behaviour is risky, especially at your time of life. You could make yourself ill, sneaking around in your scanties. However, if you are addicted to the excitement as you say, at least take practical steps to avoid freezing in the shrubbery while waiting for a taxi. Perhaps your paramour could build you a shed?
Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy revealed the romantic story behind their announcement:
Q Congratulations to you both! Tell us about the proposal. Did you go down on one knee, Justin?
J I did – in The Bull, of all places! And Lilian turned me down! We laugh about it now, don’t we darling, but it was pretty tough for a chap to take at the time. Luckily, I wasn’t kept waiting too long.
L I’d made such a mess of things. So when I realised Justin was The One, it was my turn to go down on one knee, at the Dower House. Fortunately the slacks I was wearing that day had a touch of Lycra.
Q What about an engagement ring?
L Justin had already bought me some gorgeous earrings, and now we’re going to buy the matching ring. But we’ll have to wait for my swollen knuckle to go down first.
J Yes, that’s my girl! Gave her ex, Matt Crawford, a proper shiner. I didn’t know she had such a good left hook. I’ll have to be careful! (Make it clear the Ambridge Observer doesn’t condone assault. We’ll get more letters. Ed).
Q Justin, had you asked Lilian’s mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage?
J Well, not exactly, although we had a heart-to-heart at the chiropodist’s. My future mother-in-law is a formidable character, let me tell you! And very good feet for her age.
L Mum wants me to be happy, as long as it doesn’t upset the neighbours. She is already ordering a new hat for the wedding!
Q And what plans do you have for the big day?
J I’m entirely in Lilian’s hands – just the way I like it! I’ve told her to name the day – once my divorce comes through, of course.
L At our time of life, we don’t want to make a fuss. But I’m afraid I can’t reveal any details, darling – we’ve already sold the rights to Borsetshire Life.
Guess who’s back?
Fly-grazed ponies may have a future
A group of ponies found abandoned in Ambridge this week may be saved, after an entrepreneur said he could see they had ‘potential’ for his new business.
The ponies, which were underfed, neglected and carrying injuries, were found by Mrs Lynda Snell in her paddock at Ambridge Hall early on Tuesday morning. ‘How can anyone be so cruel?’ she said. ‘They just dumped the ponies in with my poor llamas, without giving them any form of warning or counselling. Llamas are quite sensitive, you know. They will be off their hay-and-vitamin-E smoothies for days now.’
Under fly-grazing law, the owners have four days to claim the ponies back but charities say this very rarely happens. However, racing magnate Matt Crawford (are you sure? Ed) has expressed an interest in acquiring the group for a bloodstock operation he is setting up in Costa Rica.
‘So they’re old and knackered, and one of them’s nearly dead with a leg hanging off,’ he said. ‘To be honest, I’ve seen worse than that in a selling plate at Felpersham. If I can get them fit at the right price, they could be ideal for the new race course I’m building. Fantastic location, beautiful grounds – here, just look at the brochure!’ (pictured).
Mr Crawford is currently staying at Grey Gables, where he is negotiating with stud farms on behalf of American investors.
‘My clients are all tax-exile millionaires, and I reckon they’ll be delighted if I can acquire some horse flesh at a bargain price,’ he said. ‘To be honest, they’re not really interested in livestock, unless it’s between two burger buns. But of course if the ponies don’t work out for racing, that can be arranged, know what I mean?’
Helen and Tom had big plans for Bridge Farm:
The Bridge Farm Artisan Foods Experience: special earlybird offer!
Bridge Farm has big plans to build a state-of-the-art, eco, retro, timber-framed Learning and Experience Centre to demonstrate our passion for artisan foods at premium prices – none of that processed supermarket muck.
And this is your chance to be one of the first to experience the experience for yourself!
A voucher to spend the day in our light, airy, eco, retro (yes, get on with it. Ed) is a wonderful treat for yourself – or a thoughtful gift for a loved one. The fully immersive artisan experience at Bridge Farm includes:
• Welcome, valet parking and directions to the toilets (Kirsty Miller)
• Workshop One: ‘There’s more to it than pickling, you know.’ How fermented foods will save the planet (Tom Archer)
• Workshop Two: ‘That’s the whey!’ Make your own organic paneer (Helen Archer)
• Lunch: Soup, sandwich and an informal chat about yogurt with Emeritus Professor of Dairy, Pat Archer
• Afternoon walk: a guided tour of Home Farm’s herbal leys and an earnest lecture on bio-diversity (Kirsty Miller).
• Workshop Three: ‘A flair for retail’: Helen Archer’s farm shop display masterclass, with an opportunity to buy the ingredients for a quinoa-based meal of your choice.
Remember – this experience is not yet available (it depends on selling off 3.5 acres to Justin Elliott to build houses, though some of them will be affordable, honest).
So book now to reserve your place at our first amazing, experience-of-a-lifetime experience! Only £100 per person (refreshments extra).
…. And Open Farm Sunday was a success at Brookfield…
Hundreds of families flocked to Ambridge last weekend as farms threw open their barn doors for Open Farm Sunday.
‘It was a very successful day,’ said Pip Archer of Brookfield. ‘I was worried people wouldn’t come, because of the outbreak of IBR, a really nasty, infectious cattle disease that we had. But funnily enough, people didn’t know about it until I reminded them! Even when I went on about how awful it was, with calves dying and everything, it didn’t seem to put them off Gran’s chocolate sponge.
‘It’s great that people know Brookfield for our milk, lamb and beef, and not as the “farm of plague and pestilence”, said Miss Archer. 'I bet they went home, forgot about the hideous, contagious disease they’d just been exposed to, and increased their orders for Brookfield beef. No wonder Dad says I’m a marketing genius.’
But not everyone was happy that Brookfield had decided to take part in the event. ‘They’ve got a nerve after all the trouble they caused with the IBR,’ said Tom Archer of Bridge Farm. ‘And they’ve got my dad’s classic Fordson tractor, which is worse. Everyone knows the kids love to climb up on an old relic. That’s why we usually invite Joe Grundy over to tell his tales of old Borsetshire.
‘As it was, there was nothing to distract the visitors from my sister Helen. Her friend Kirsty had made a sign for her, which read ‘Yes, I’m Helen Archer who stabbed her husband. No, you can’t have a selfie. Get over yourself and taste my cheese.’ But it only seemed to make people more determined to ask her about the trial. And no one was interested in my fermented foods at all. Although someone did ask me if Kale Kimchi was that bloke out of EastEnders.’
The summer fete saw some intriguing new attractions:
The Human Fruit Machine (three blokes in booths holding up random pieces of fruit) is not the only unusual stall at this year’s Ambridge fête. Also on offer in keeping with the ‘tradition with a twist’ theme are:
Human Speak-Your-Weight Machine
Susan Carter makes personal remarks and asks intrusive questions about your friends and family until you pay her to stop. Donations to the women’s cricket changing room fund.
Human Coconut (Flapjack) Shy
Relive the celebrity chef experience as Jill Archer throws her famous traybakes at your head. Don't forget to Duck-sford! As heard on Radio Borsetshire. Donations to the Happy Friends Café.
Listen to Lynda Snell read from her favourite books including Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Get Off My Land, a Nimby’s Manual by Xavier Greene-Belt. Donations to Speedwatch.
Human Kiss-Me-Quick Hat
Tracy Horrobin… (that’s enough stalls. Ed).
Ambridge said goodbye to a much-loved family member, and Borsetshire Laureate Bert Fry composed an ode for the occasion:
A poem for Caroline
And so farewell to Caroline Bone,
Or Sterling, as you were to become known.
The village of Ambridge will miss you sorely,
And no one even knew you were poorly.
Though your husband Oliver will mourn you bitterly,
You died in peace, at your home in Italy.
It was where you loved to drink wine and eat peaches,
A place where you both had found your niches.
Your life was always busy and full,
From your first job in Ambridge, at The Bull.
Jack Woolley could see that you were able,
And made you manager of Grey Gables.
You were never one for airs and graces,
Despite your connections in high places.
As Lord Netherborne’s niece, you didn’t fret
When you had to host Princess Margaret.
You were so happy as Oliver’s wife,
But not always lucky in love or life.
You had your passions, I recall,
It would take me too long to name them all.
There was Matthew the doctor, and Robin the vet,
And Cameron Fraser – one to forget,
And even – it’s rumoured – Mr Brian Aldridge,
But that’s all water under the bridge.
You found true love with first husband Guy,
Though much too soon, Mr Pemberton died.
But never one to mope and moan,
You carried on bravely all alone
Until you met your soulmate Oliver,
And from then on life could not be jollier.
Not blessed with family of your own,
To foster children you opened your home.
And young Will Grundy always knew,
As his godmother, he could rely on you.
Eddie and Joe often tried your patience,
But you were always kind and gracious.
So Caroline, Ambridge loved you dear,
And we all wish you were still here.
And though you lie in foreign parts,
You will always live on in our hearts.
Home from Oxford for the summer, Phoebe found herself in a spot of trouble:
Poll of the Week
What was it that made Phoebe Aldridge so sick that she couldn’t keep down her morning-after pill? Vote now!
O Jennifer Aldridge’s baked apples
O Clarrie Grundy’s cheesecake
O Lynda Snell’s Black Forest gateau
O Constantin’s spotted dick
(That’s enough options. Ed.)
But the arrival of the seasonal workers brought romance for Roy Tucker:
Holiday special: Handy Bulgarian Phrasebook
It’s that time of year again, when Ambridge is overrun with immigrants (surely, welcomes seasonal workers from the EU? Ed.) Reader Roy Tucker has contacted the Ambridge Observer for tips on how to break the ice and get to know our visitors better – especially Lexi, from near Sofia. We hear you, Roy! Here are some useful phrases:
• Romanian, Bulgarian – they’re the same, aren’t they?
Rumŭnski, bŭlgarski, te sa edni i sŭshti, nali?
• I am not a racist, I just don’t like foreign people.
Az ne sŭm rasist, prosto ne kharesvam chuzhdestrannite khora
• Can I buy you a drink, even though I voted Brexit?
Moga li da vi kupya napitka, vŭpreki che glasuvakh Breksit?
• I would like to take control of your borders.
Bikh iskal da poema kontrola nad vashite granitsi.
Through the year, Borsetshire Rural Cinema showed some classics:
Last Tango in Grey Gables
Two senior citizens meet at a viewing for a house they would both like to buy. Reminding her how they used to love doing dodgy property deals, he persuades her to go his hotel suite with champagne and asks for a last kiss before he disappears from her life forever (again). She is torn between her ex, her trusting fiancé and her nephew waiting petulantly for his dinner in reception. It can only end in tears… (Contains some scenes unsuitable for family viewing).
Fungus in the Attic
Perfect for Hallowe’en!
In this 1990s schlock-horror classic, misunderstood kids Freddie and Noluthando try to find some excitement in their meaningless lives by picking ‘magic mushrooms’. But while drying the shrooms, they find themselves trapped in the attic of their creepy old family mansion, where the staff never go. No one hears their screams because Freddie’s twin Lily is busy dispensing unwanted romantic advice, their mother is fretting over the Hunt Ball and house guest Pip is having a noisy reunion with lover Toby. And the plot takes a terrifying twist when Noluthando rubs an old diver’s helmet and summons the ghost of Freddie’s late father Nigel, who is bent on revenge for his untimely death…
Knocked Up (18)
Rising young dairy farmer Pip hits a serious bump in the road after a brief reunion with irresponsible ex Toby results in pregnancy. Uncertain what to do, she decides to give Toby a chance to prove he is father material. However, when he produces his season ticket to the termination clinic and offers to drive her there, she begins to doubt if they are truly compatible, and wonders if she would be happier helping her parents redesign the milking parlour. Warning: contains scenes of excruciating awkwardness.
Emma Grundy and Robert Snell went head to head…
Ambridge Parish Council was rocked to the core this week as it
was plunged into what chairman Neil Carter described as ‘an unprecedented
Following the resignation of Oliver Sterling, a vacancy has arisen and for the first time in living memory, more than one candidate has expressed an interest in taking over.
‘We’re really not sure of the procedure,’ said Mr Carter. ‘The last time we had an election in the parish, Nathan Applecore stood against Sir Grimwood Buckle and won on a platform of repealing the Corn Laws.’
To add to the complexity of the situation, one of the candidates for the vacant seat is Mr Carter’s daughter, Emma Grundy, whose passionate defence of the proposed new housing at Bridge Farm has already seen her labelled a ‘firebrand’ by some local residents.
‘This Council is too pale, male and stale. It’s about time it was shaken up a bit,’ said Mrs Grundy. 'Ambridge needs to take people like me and my family seriously and there are plenty round here who agree with me. Jill Archer has already said she’ll support me at hustings. She’s making weapons-grade flapjacks specially.’
Mrs Grundy’s opponent, Robert Snell, says he is ‘surprised but prepared’ to contest an election. ‘I’m standing on a bird-watching platform at the moment,’ he said.’ But as soon as I’ve finished my sandwiches I’m going to get on with campaigning. Lyndy has given me some lovely ideas, such as compulsory book club membership and funding half-price cappuccini for senior citizens at the Bridge Farm tea room.’
… and Brian nearly blew a fuse when Noluthando came to stay..
Weather experts were left red-faced this week after Storm Brian, which was forecast to cause widespread chaos in Ambridge, blew over without much fuss.
‘We know what can happen when Brian blows his top,’ said one. ‘And we thought there would be an almighty row when his granddaughter said she wouldn’t go to college while she is staying at Home Farm.
‘The prospect of Noluthando lazing about all day watching Netflix had already whipped Brian into a tropical storm, which strengthened to hurricane force when he stepped on Kate’s Om Tingsha bells in bare feet.
‘We fully expected raging winds that would see Spiritual Home’s yurts flying over to Penny Hassett,’ said our source. ‘But in the end, Freddie Pargetter persuaded Noluthando that college would be cool. So she gave in. Phew.’
Matt was a marked man at the Hunt Ball…
Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has warned that ex-pat businessman Matt Crawford faces arrest if he attends South Borsetshire Hunt Ball on Sunday evening.
‘This evil, heartless criminal has got away with too much for far too long,’ he said. ‘We already suspect him of stalking Mrs Lilian Bellamy by fitting a tracker to her dog Ruby, and also to Mrs Bellamy’s phone. This enabled him to follow her into the ladies’ dressing rooms at House of Fraser in Birmingham, disguised in a midnight blue velvet backless ballgown, to force on her a one-way ticket to Costa Rica.
‘Shula Hebden Lloyd has also reported Mr Crawford for the malicious campaign against her equine businesses, which has cost them important clients. Of course, one horse died and one was injured at The Stables lately, but it was jolly unfair of Mr Crawford to tell everyone.
‘He then dared to compound his crime by donating a £5,000 Rhine cruise for two to the Hunt Ball raffle, thereby obliging Mrs Hebden Lloyd to give him a ticket for the ball.
‘All this was bad enough,’ said PC Burns. ‘But Mr Crawford was then overheard expressing homophobic and bigoted views on surrogate parenthood to Adam Macy, which quite understandably prompted Mr Macy to exercise his right to bop him on the nose.’
‘All I can say to Mr Crawford is ‘Mind how you go,’ said PC Burns. ‘He has already given at least three guests at the ball the motive to do him a mischief. And if he emerges from his suite at Grey Gables to attend the ball, he may find his ‘plus one’ is a burly officer of the law.’
PC Burns was desperate to find the hit-and-run culprit:
Five weeks after the hit-and-run incident that nearly killed fugitive fraudster Matt Crawford, police admit they are no nearer to making an arrest. But the enquiry stepped up this week as Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) unveiled an unorthodox operation designed to flush out the culprit.
‘It was talking to our vicar about the pantomime that gave me the idea,’ he said. ‘He thinks he persuaded me to play Prince Florian, but it’s all a cunning ruse. Halfway through the first act I’m going to whip my notebook out of my doublet and put the audience on the spot. I’m going to kick off with these lines:
‘Ladies and gents, your help I need
To find out who did a dreadful deed.
So if you know who splatted Matt,
Please don’t keep it under your hat.’
Then I’m going to point at someone on the stage and say: "It’s him!" And the audience will roar back: "Oh no it isn’t!" and I’ll reply: "Oh yes it is!" and so on.
Of course, I’m hoping that the culprit will break cover and run across the stage, so the audience can shout "He’s behind you!" Then I’ll give chase and cuff him as he gets tangled up in the stage curtains. Job’s a good ‘un.’
As Matt got away with it, Lilian got her man (sort of):
The plot of the Ambridge Christmas pantomime took an unexpected twist this week when Friday’s dress rehearsal was accidentally double-booked with the wedding of Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy at Lower Loxley.
‘We couldn’t have the village hall because the boiler was broken, but I have to say everyone rose to the challenge brilliantly,’ said the director, Revd Alan Franks.
‘As a result, we’ve included some hilarious new scenes, including:
• Fur flies as Fabrice the hairdresser is reunited with Peggy Woolley’s pussy and attempts to give her a celebratory blue rinse. Hilda Ogden is not amused!
• Harrison Burns does a clog dance to The Laughing Policeman, accompanied by heavy hints about Count Justin’s criminal tendencies.
• Countess Lilian’s handmaidens, Queen Edwina (Eddie Grundy) and Lady Jennifer, enlist the Penny Hassett tug-of-war team to hoist the bride into her wedding dress. Pure slapstick!
• A touching duet, written for Count Justin and Countess Lilian by Borsetshire laureate Bert Fry, who has given The AmOb a sneak preview:
‘I cannot sign this pre-nup, dear,
For legal docs fill me with fear. So sorry folks, I will not wed her –
But still I cannot wait to bed her!’
‘Oh Justin darling, what a tease,
Your cold feet brought me to my knees.
But as I’m now too old for Tinder,
We’re still going on our trip to India!’
Thanks for reading, everyone, and Happy New Year! Looking forward to lots more reporting from the front line of farming, fetes and family feuds in Ambridge in 2018!