Sunday, 8 January 2017

Rob evicted, Brian conflicted and Tom afflicted: a dramatic week in Ambridge

Estates manager banned from village store

The Ambridge Village Shop Committee voted at an emergency meeting this week to ban an angry shopper who ‘abused and harassed’ staff.
‘We are all volunteers,’ said Jim Lloyd, who with manager Susan Carter bore the brunt of the altercation. ‘I don’t come to work to be bullied and patronised; my daughter-in-law Shula does that perfectly well.’
Mr Lloyd explained how his reluctance to serve Rob Titchener, Damara Estates’ local manager, after the shop had closed prompted an ‘outrageous volley’ of insults and foul language.
‘It was upsetting, but you can’t shock a student of Juvenal and Catullus,’ he said. ‘However, when he tried to push his way past Mrs Carter and told her to “scuttle back to her lair”, we had no option but to call the police.’
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) said Mr Titchener had left the scene by the time he arrived. ‘Coincidentally, I was investigating a crime in which he appeared to be the victim,’ he said. ‘A person or persons unknown had scrawled offensive slogans in lipstick on Mr Titchener’s car windscreen. The list of suspects was so long that I had barely started my door-to-door enquiries when called to the shop.’
PC Burns said that following discussions with the committee, no further action would be taken against Mr Titchener. Mrs Carter told our reporter: ‘By now he should have got the message that he isn’t welcome in the shop, or anywhere else in Ambridge. While you’re here though, would you mind looking through the album from our family photo shoot? I still can’t decide which to choose…’ (Note to subs: delete this quote. Ed).

Ask Auntie Satya 

With her warm wit and forensic legal skills, you can rely on Auntie Satya to sort out your emotional and practical dilemmas!

Dear Auntie Satya,

My wife says that if I don’t know what she wants for her birthday, I don’t know her at all! Her sister says I should get her a copse. Does this sound like a good idea to you? Brian.

Dear Brian,

A copse is an unusual gift, and quite difficult to wrap. A designer handbag or pair of diamond earrings would be a more reliable choice. I suspect that what your wife would really like is plenty of soft soap and some fairy stories, and in the past I expect you have been rather good at supplying these.

Dear Auntie Satya,

I have been having an affaire de coeur with my employer, who is married to a woman who has all the warmth of a teaspoon. But I fear she overheard some careless gossip about us at the village pantomime, and since then he hasn’t answered my texts. Do you think my adventure is over? Lilian.

Dear Lilian,

Obviously, I cannot condone your behaviour, and no woman expects to be humiliated at the theatre, unless she is on the stage.  But do not give up hope! There are few gentlemen who do not ultimately prefer a swizzle stick to a teaspoon.    

Dear Auntie Satya,

My boyfriend disappeared to Brighton after Christmas and said he was late back because his pick-up broke down and he had to console a heart-broken mate. He’s promised to make it up to me with a gin-tasting and a night at a hotel in Birmingham. Do you think he is right for me? Pip.

 Dear Pip,

As I always say to my niece Usha, people will place the same value on you as you place on yourself. Re-read your letter and I fear you will find you have answered your own question.  

The Trials of Tom Archer

In the latest chapter of our passionate winter saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero fears that the terrible wrong he has done in the past will forever blight his chance of future happiness…

‘Ooh baby baby… oooh baby baby…’ Tom drained his pint of Auld Man’s Whine (The Bull’s guest bitter for New Year’s Eve) and slammed his glass on the bar. He could think of nothing but Kirsty, and even the music seemed to mock him. Why wasn’t she here, celebrating their wonderful news? All their friends were here:  Roy looking dazed, his face covered in red lipstick kisses; Jazzer sporting his trick sporran, and Johnny, downing shots and spraying pork scratchings all over that poor girl Saskia. Tom had promised Kirsty she could sit quietly with a bitter lemon until midnight, when they could see in the New Year as parents-to-be. Surely that should have been enough to tempt her out?
Fear ran through him – cold as the ice cubes Tracy Horrobin was playfully stuffing down the back of Roy’s neck. What if Kirsty was ill? She might even be slipping her calf, and here he was out partying! ‘You fool!’ he said aloud. Ignoring Johnny, who was shouting to him to come back and watch Tracy twerking, he stumbled out of the pub towards Willow Farm, the furry antlers on his head still flashing…


‘Tom, I’m not ill, just pregnant. There was no need to turn up and pound on the door. All you did was wake me up!’ It was two days later. Kirsty looked weary, but he told himself that was normal. His sows often seemed off-colour when they were in pig. And he hadn’t been sleeping well himself….
‘Look Kirsty,’ he said. He reached forward to take her hand, but she pulled back. ‘What is it Tom? I promised Roy I’d sort out his dating spreadsheet.’
‘OK then, I won’t keep you.’ Tom reminded himself to respect his partner’s priorities. This time, he would get it right… ‘I’ve just come back from Henry’s birthday party, and thinking how one day, we’ll be celebrating with our baby. So I think it would be best if you moved in with me.’ Kirsty’s face froze. ‘Separate rooms?’ he added hastily, with what he hoped was a winning smile.
‘But we only live a few doors apart,’ Kirsty said. ‘Really Tom, I’m touched that you’re taking this so seriously. But there’s plenty of time to work out the details. Now off you go, before I forget whether it’s Jessica or Joanne who’s got the seafood allergy.’ She tapped the spreadsheet briskly.
‘Oh, right. Yes, of course. No rush. No 1 The Green needs a tidy-up, anyway. I swear Johnny’s trying to re-carpet the lounge with pizza!’
On the way home, Tom tried to analyse Kirsty’s enigmatic smile as she said goodbye. She hadn’t thrown him out at least. Maybe there was hope for him…


‘Sorry sis, I gotta go!’ Tom hadn’t felt so keyed up since he was presenting his ready meals to the supermarket. ‘I’m really pleased Rob’s not going to contest the divorce – and that recipe for kale and barley granola looks great. Maybe we should stack some eco-friendly loo paper next to it!’
Dodging the turnip Helen playfully launched at his head, Tom skipped off to Willow Farm. Why, oh why had it taken him so long to realise what he must do? But he could see the future now, as bright as Johnny’s neon disco shirt.
When Kirsty opened the door, it was all he could do not to grab her in a bear-hug.
He waited till she’d finished telling him about the glitch in the Grey Gables online booking system, then blurted out ‘I’m so sorry!’ Kirsty looked surprised. ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad, the IT guy fixed it!’
‘No, I mean I’m so sorry about the other day,’ Tom stuttered. ‘I should never have said that about you moving in. It was completely wrong!’  
‘Well, yes…’ sighed Kirsty. ‘It was… Tom – what are you doing!’
He had slipped onto his knees, arms outstretched, just like Colin in Mother Goose. ‘Kirsty, you must marry me! Don’t you see, it’s meant to be! You and me get on OK, our little one is on the way, and I’m about to launch an organic baby food business! Sorry, couldn’t make that bit rhyme. But you get my drift.’
He closed his eyes and waited for Colinette to melt into his embrace.
There was a terrible, seemingly endless silence. When she finally spoke, her words rained down on him like heavy blows. How dare he. Not a bloody pantomime. Betrayed. Humiliated. Never trust him again. Never forgive him. Not even sure she wanted his child…
Afterwards, he couldn’t remember how he got home. All through that night, and the dreadful days and nights that followed, her words haunted him: “Back off Tom. Back off right now…’
To be continued….


  1. Excellent!

    Did Tom mishear the last bit?

  2. Thank you and Happy New Year! Lavinia says people often tell her to 'back off' when she tries to overtake them on her (pink) mobility scooter, so she assumed it was a modern expression. But she doesn't always have her ear trumpet handy so she may have misheard.

  3. Although Jim is far more of a bully than Shula...

  4. I think Brian means corpse not copse.