Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cricket in crisis, Freddie in trouble and Jennifer in party mood: a controversial week in Ambridge

Council on back foot after school security lapses

Borsetshire County Council’s education department was forced to defend itself this week after a series of security breaches that potentially put students at risk.
Parents at the recent Open Evening at Borchester College reported an ‘incident’ in which an intruder pretended to be the father of a sixth-form student and quizzed tutors about his progress and exam performance.
‘He looked quite shifty, as if he had something to hide,’ said one. ‘But one minute he was chatting to Mr Comley, the maths tutor, and the next there was this huge row when Freddie Pargetter’s mother Lizzie appeared. Turns out it was Freddie’s uncle Kenton, trying to help him cover up the fact he’d failed his GCSE resit! She was furious.’
The lapse in security follows more serious events at Loxley Barrett Primary School earlier this year, when it was revealed that disgraced fugitive Rob Titchener had gained access to the playground on several occasions to talk to Henry Archer, aged 6, contrary to a family  court order.
‘Following these regrettable incidents we have reviewed and updated all our safeguarding procedures,’ said a BCC spokesperson. ‘However, we do like to encourage enterprise in our students, and this was certainly the smartest thing Freddie Pargetter has done all year.’

Home Farm party ‘highlight of social year’

Brian and Jennifer Aldridge will be welcoming the movers and shakers of Borsetshire to Home Farm next weekend at a huge party to celebrate the recent expansion of their business.
‘The theme of the soirée is “Land”, reflecting the wonderful deal that Brian has done with Borchester Land,’ said Mrs Aldridge. ‘And Fallon Rogers and Emma Grundy are doing the catering, so we’re supporting a local business.’
Guests will feast on a themed menu including:     

Dirty Martinis
Gravel-lax and stone ground rye bread
Landfill-et of beef with field mushrooms and Tarmacaroni cheese
Mississippi Mud pie, Rocky Road icecream and chocolate soil

But some have criticised the timing of the party as ‘inappropriate’. ‘I’ve heard people in the shop say it’s an obscene display of privilege by bloated plutocrats flaunting their wealth in the face of the poor,’ said Mrs Susan Carter. ‘But we’ll be going of course, as we’re family. And Neil can’t wait to see me in my red velvet dress again.’  
‘Movers and shakers, eh?’ said Eddie Grundy. ‘Jennifer wants to watch out Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy don’t get up to moving and shaking in front of all the guests. Especially not with Justin’s wife there. I’d rather have a pasty and a pint of Shires.’

Teens are promised an on-screen treat

As the world’s eyes turn on Hollywood for the Oscars this week, two senior citizens aim to create some movie magic in Ambridge by launching a new cinema club.
‘My friend Carol Tregorran and I came up with the idea after seeing how much time our young relatives, like Ben and Ruairi, spend in their rooms playing computer games,’ said Mrs Jill Archer of Brookfield. ‘We love classic films, and we thought we’d like to get youngsters out of the house and broaden their horizons by sharing some of our favourites with them.’
The two film fans have hired the village hall for the first meeting, which will show a double bill of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Singin’ in the Rain.  ‘We hope to introduce young people of Ambridge to the imagination, theatricality and pre-digital magisterial command of some of cinema’s greatest auteurs such as Kurosawa, Renoir, Fellini and Godard,’ said Mrs Tregorran. ‘I look forward to sharing the dystopian vision and multi-layered, non-narrative structures of works that have truly challenged my personal constructs and subverted my paradigm over many years.’
‘And I will be handing round home-made flapjacks and leading a singalong in the interval,’ said Mrs Archer.  

Letter to The Editor

Dear Madam,

Tom Archer and I just wanted to thank readers for all their kind wishes and messages after our recent loss. And also, will you just stop talking about it now because I am absolutely fine, it’s just one of those things, people get over it in different ways and my way is going back to work, spending lots of money on party clothes, going out clubbing and generally showing everyone that I am absolutely fine. Completely fine. No problems at all. And Tom is going off to Brazil soon and that’s fine because he’s working on a new organic baby food business….. Anyway. He’s fine too. We’re both fine. Please can we stop talking about it now. Thank you.

Yours sincerely

Kirsty Miller  

Poetry Corner

Thanks to Bert Fry, the Bard of Borsetshire, for this wry, spry reflection on Ambridge Cricket Club’s current woes!  (Do we really have to publish the ramblings of this old dinosaur? Ed).

It’s just not cricket!

A game of village cricket
Is a lovely sight to see,
With leather hitting willow
And a lengthy break for tea.

But Ambridge cricket’s in a fix,
We cannot field a team,
We’re all too old or busy
To practise swing or seam.

So Captain Burns got thinking
On how to fill the gaps,
And asked himself the question:
Why should players all be chaps?

He rang up lots of ladies,
To see if they were keen,
But apart from Molly Button
They all said ‘Not my scene.’

But PC Burns is stubborn
He won’t give up just yet
He’s pinning all his cricket hopes
On Anisha, our new vet.

Our captain will do anything
Not to cancel fixtures
Bu we don’t want opposing teams
To call us ‘dolly mixtures’.

So at the latest AGM
We told young Harrison flat:
The girls are there to make the teas
And not to wield a bat.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Ambridge Observer midweek special – ‘Academic Archers’ supplement

Boffins descended on Borsetshire last weekend (surely, the University of Lincoln? Ed)  to put life in Ambridge under the spotlight of academic scrutiny as never before. This special supplement reports on residents’ reactions as the village is left reeling from their research findings…

(Click the links for YouTube evidence)

Report slams ‘darker side’ of Flower & Produce

The committee of the Ambridge Flower & Produce Show met this week and vowed to ‘drain the swamp’ of cheating and corruption that has clouded the event in recent years. They were responding to Rachel Daniels and Annie Maddison Warren of Cranfield University, who presented a report highlighting some of the worst examples. These included the swapping of labels on green beans, making bread in a machine, the illicit use of twine and of course, last year’s ‘Chutneygate’.
‘Frankly there was no need to bring any of that up again,’ said a spokesperson. ‘No one likes to be reminded that the Flower & Produce Show has a darker side. The vast majority wouldn’t dream of cheating. But that said, the tantalising glimpse of a ‘Best in Show’ certificate can make good people do bad things.’
On a more positive note, there will be a new category in the show this year: Most Impressive Sausage. ‘We’re expecting a large entry, but initial canvassing suggests that Jazzer McCreary will be the big winner,’ said Dr Cara Courage of the University of Brighton.  ‘I for one can’t wait to see what he brings to the table.’
There will also be a prize for Best Female Birdwatcher, sponsored by Joanna Dobson of Sheffield Hallam University. ‘Birdwatching is an overwhelmingly male hobby in Ambridge, even though Molly Button saved the day in the Great Bird Race in 2015,’ she said. ‘We hope this prize will encourage more women to take an active part, instead of using the hide in the country park to drink cider and talk about men.’ 
However, the committee turned down Nathan Booth’s suggestion of a prize for the Biggest Melons. (Oh, dear God. Ed).

New family game promises fortune for Josh

Young Ambridge entrepreneur Josh Archer reckons he’ll make a fortune this Christmas with his latest venture – a board game called AmOpoly. It’s described as ‘anarcho-syndicalist fun for all the family’ and has been devised with the help of Dr Nicola Headlam of Oxford University.    
‘It’s really cool,’ said Mr Archer. ‘You choose a piece that represents a local family – for instance a pheasant for the Aldridges, a cow for the Brookfield Archers or a ferret for the Grundys – and then you dash round the board forming power networks. If you throw a three you join the Parish Council (formal governance), but you get extra points for landing on Lynda Snell, who has lots of soft power by running the panto.
‘If you land on a Horrobin square you go straight to prison, but you can use an Aldridge ‘get out of jail free’ card to escape,’ added Mr Archer. ‘I got that idea from Louise Gillies of King’s College, London, and her colleague Helen Burrows. They dropped in to buy some eggs one day and we got chatting about genograms and dysfunctional families, like you do.’
Mr Archer says AmOpoly is already proving a hit with family members. ‘My gran keeps playing it to see if she can make the Fairbrothers disappear, but they never do,’ he said. ‘The aim of the game is to join all your power networks together and see who comes out on top. Amazingly, it’s Ed Grundy. Whoever gets to crown him king of Ambridge is the winner. And everyone’s cool with that because we all like Ed.’        

Parish Council forgets to remember

Ambridge Parish Council has apologised to residents after being forced to admit it has ‘mislaid’ the village War Memorial.
‘We realised this some years ago, but hoped no one would notice if we kept holding our Armistice Day ceremonies in different places, such as in St Stephen’s or on Lakey Hill,’ said a shame-faced Neil Carter, parish council chair. ‘But Jessica Meyer of the University of Leeds has been looking into it and although we hoped she would find the memorial on the village green somewhere she’s had no luck.’
Mr Carter said the council would be consulting stakeholders on replacing the lost memorial. ‘If this proves difficult in the current financial climate, Mr and Mrs Snell have kindly offered the use of their ‘Resurgam’ stone as a “lieu de mémoire”, he said. ‘This is not only typographically fitting, but also has the benefit of the nearby shepherd’s hut in case of inclement weather.’


• Pies need pimping?
• Poultry sales a turkey?
• Need to shift more sausages?

Use social media to boost your business with this simple three-point guide!

• Take loads of lovely photos of your products (leave out dead animals, slurry heaps, unattractive older relatives etc)
• Put them all up on PinaLinkInyerFaceYouTwit with loads of OMGs!!!
• Wait for the orders to roll in!

Top tip: If Justin Elliott had a social media secretary instead of a social secretary, he’d be a squillionaire instead of a boring old millionaire by now!!!!!  
Don’t delay: contact Olivia Vandyk at Gingham Cloud today! (Landline is best; broadband is rubbish in Borsetshire).


St Stephen’s is asking worshippers to celebrate this year’s Harvest Festival by drinking coffee, eating croissants and listening to the radio, instead of attending church.
‘It is a break from tradition,’ said visiting preacher Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler of Methodist Church House. ‘But to be honest you will find as many moral dilemmas on the radio on a Sunday morning as you will in one of Revd Franks’s sermons.’
Revd Dr Hustler said the congregation will be encouraged to reflect on sustainability, using the collect “Just look at the state of this soil”. They will also be asked to give thanks for local people who help their neighbours “not just to eat, but to eat well”, such as Ed Grundy and his high-quality milk, Tom Archer’s high-welfare sausages and Ruth Archer’s stuffed-crust frozen pizza. (are you sure? Ed).
Meanwhile Revd Alan Franks is on an extended period of leave, while he recovers from his failed attempts to reach out to the disgraced fugitive, Rob Titchener. ‘Alan did his best, but I could have told him there is no saving a man who chose to get married on the Isle of Wight,’ said Revd Dr Hustler.

‘Steer clear of pretend policing,’ public warned

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) issued a stark warning this week after several people claiming to be police officers were seen in Ambridge. ‘It has been brought to my attention that persons calling themselves @Borsetpolice ,@CSI_Ambridge and even @PCBurns have been spotted in the village,’ PC Burns told a packed press conference. ‘They have been telling people to mind how they go, failing to find missing bunting and examining crisp spatter patterns in The Bull. These are all my jobs and I do them perfectly well.’
PC Burns reminded the public that impersonating a police officer, or even having an item of police equipment on the person, carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment. ‘To that end I have cautioned the individuals involved – they know who they are,’ he said. ‘And I have told Jazzer McCreary to put his truncheon away.’ (oh, please. Totally uncalled-for. Ed).   


Dear Madam,

I thought your readers might be interested in some research that shows just how difficult it is for local students to gain a place at Oxford University. Did you know that, according to Felicity Macdonald-Smith, only 18.8% of acceptances at Oxford are from state schools in the West Midlands? And that PPE is one of the most over-subscribed courses?
Far be it from me to point out that my granddaughter Phoebe recently won a place at Oxford to read PPE – although I don’t think she’s actually mentioned which college. And Ms Macdonald-Smith said her A level grades of A*AAA are only average for Oxford. Of course she’s quite wrong about that.
But we’re so lucky that Phoebe had her grandfather Brian to help her fine-tune her political skills, by reading her his favourite bits from the Daily Telegraph. I’m sure that made all the difference.

Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Aldridge, Home Farm.

Ambridge Observer Arts Exclusive:
Desert Island Discs with Rob Titchener

This week, Desert Island Discs departs from tradition by interviewing a celebrity who has already been cast away – Rob Titchener, who recently fled Ambridge after being shunned by the local community. And Kirsty Young makes way for three guest presenters: Dr Freya Jarman and Emily Baker of the University of Liverpool, and Professor Jennifer Brown of the Mannheim Centre, London School ofEconomics

Prof Brown: Thank you for joining us today, Mr Titchener. Tell us about your first disc: Lonely Boy, by Andrew Gold.
RT: Thank you. After all the lies I’ve endured, I’m entitled to a show of my own. I’m glad you psychologists are giving me the credit I deserve at last. Lonely Boy reminds me of Ursula and Bruce, my mum and dad. ‘They wrapped him up warmly and sent him to school..’ Yes, that was me. Not Miles. He went to day-school, but it was off to prep for me. It was the making of me, once I’d stopped blubbing. It would have done Henry the world of good too. But it wasn’t to be. Helen ruined it, like she ruins everything.

Dr Jarman: Your second choice is Blues In The Night. Why have you chosen Frank Sinatra’s version rather than Ella Fitzgerald’s?
RT: Because I’m a man, you stupid – I mean, it was a tough choice between this and My Way. But I relate more to the lyrics in Sinatra’s version. ‘A woman’s a two-face – a worrysome thing who’ll leave you to sing the blues in the night.’ Says it all, doesn’t it?

Emily Baker: Very interesting, Mr Titchener. Now from Old Blue Eyes to Lyin’ Eyes, by the Eagles. Can we detect a pattern here?
RT: I’m afraid so. I keep asking myself, why am I so unlucky with women? All I do is love them and devote my whole life to them, and every time they betray me. ‘The cheatin’ side of town’. I knew that’s where Helen was going that night she stabbed me. And she tried to say it was all my fault! Do I look like a monster to you? 

Prof Brown: Not to me, Mr Titchener. But tell us about the next disc: Luka by Suzanne Vega.
RT: This is another one that takes me back to childhood. ‘If you hear something late at night, some kind of trouble, some kind of fight, just don't ask me what it was…’ I’d sit on the stairs, listening to mum and dad having one of their ‘discussions’. Dad always won. ‘They’re like dogs. You’ve got to show ‘em who’s boss, boy,’ he’d say. Never did me any harm.

Dr Jarman: Next up, it’s Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of Is This Love?. Does it remind you of happier times?
RT: Yes, this song was playing the evening I gave Helen our son Gideon – I mean, Jack. It was a wild night! We were so happy then, so right for each other. Of course, she twisted it all later, tried to say I forced her. All lies. And I paid the price by losing my son.

Emily Baker: Time for your sixth choice. Tainted Love, by Soft Cell. Why have you picked this? (Though to be honest I’ve got a fair idea).
RT: Isn’t it obvious? ‘I gave you all a boy could give you…’ I want Helen to hear this on Radio Borsetshire and realise what she’s driven me to. Are you listening Helen? Are you?

Dr Jarman: Please let go of the microphone, Mr Titchener. Shall we move on? Your seventh choice is Wise Up, by Aimee Mann. What does this mean to you?
RT: ‘It won’t stop till you wise up’. If only Helen wasn’t so stubborn! I don’t just blame her; it was her family, Kirsty, the whole damn village were against me. But part of me still believes she’ll ‘wise up’ one day and we can be a family again.

Prof Brown: It’s time for your last disc, Mr Titchener. What have you chosen?
RT: It’s Firestarter, by The Prodigy. I’m sure everyone can relate to this – you know, getting so angry, so furious, that you just want to destroy everything and everyone that’s hurt you? I swear Helen still makes me so angry some days, I could just get on a plane back to Ambridge and…  Hey! Where are you going? Come back! You can’t just leave me here….


An emergency meeting of the Ambridge Emergency Committee will be held next Thursday in the village hall. ‘We will be reacting to shock news from Fiona Gleed of the University of Bath that “sandbags suck”,’ said chair David Archer. 
Dr Angela Connelly of Manchester University has also reminded us that we need to revise our collective flood memory, which will make us more resilient in future. So we’re trying to remember what worked – like Pip Archer saving Brookfield with only a rusty set of pliers – and trying to forget that we all hailed Rob Titchener as a hero of the flood.’

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Rob goes to the US, Justin & Lilian go public and Fallon has a bright idea: spring in the air in Ambridge

NOTE TO READERS: There will be no Sunday edition of The Ambridge Observer next week as our reporters will be covering the AcademicArchers conference at the University of Lincoln.  (Note to subs: make sure my paper is reprinted in full. Ed).    

Titchener escapes Stateside

Rob Titchener, who is a fugitive from justice after a foiled attempt to kidnap his baby son, has fled to the USA, according to police sources.
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) told a press conference that US immigration officials confirmed Mr Titchener landed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last week after giving UK police the slip.
‘Once it was clear Mr Titchener had left Borsetshire the case was out of my hands,’ said PC Burns. ‘Which was just as well really, because I’ve been worried sick about the Ambridge cricket team. I don’t regret banning Rob from the team, but you have to say he got results. And this season we’re so short of players I was thinking of putting Bartleby in the outfield.
‘But then Fallon had a brilliant idea – why not let women join? She can’t play of course – too busy making the teas – but there’s plenty of female cricketing talent in Ambridge – just look at the single wicket. And they can wash everyone’s whites afterwards!
‘I’m just going to check it out with the County secretary but I think it’s the way forward. Can’t wait to see Darrington’s faces.’ (Didn’t he say anything else about Rob Titchener? Ed).

Damara chairman in hospital scare

Damara Capital chairman Justin Elliott was briefly hospitalised this week after what was described as a ’bizarre accident’ at a dinner dance.
Mr Elliott, his social secretary Lilian Bellamy, Mrs Bellamy’s sister Jennifer Aldridge and her husband Brian were attending the black-tie event in the Lothario Suite of the Brigadoon Hotel in Felpersham when the accident occurred.
‘It was a crowded dance floor, but this couple stood out,’ said Ray Tremelo, singer with the Kwalitaires dance band. ‘They’d already fallen once after a bungled samba roll. And when the boys struck up the Argentine Tango I knew we were in trouble. The ladies often try the moves they’ve seen on Strictly, but this couple just weren’t up to it. She was going for a gancho, kicked her leg up too high, caught her heel in his cummerbund and it was goodnight Vienna.’
Paramedics were called and took Mr Elliott to Felpersham Hospital with a suspected broken ankle, but he was later discharged. Mrs Bellamy was unhurt and was taken home by Mr and Mrs Aldridge.
‘We were relieved to hear that Justin and Lilian weren’t injured,’ said Mrs Lynda Snell, who was also attending the event. ‘It would quite have spoiled our evening. Although I’m surprised the paramedics could prise them apart to take Justin to hospital. But Robert and I had a wonderful time. We were celebrating Ambridge Hall’s 5-star review on the TravelGuru website. Would you like to see it?’

From the Message Boards…

This week we drop in on the Ambridge Village Forum, for the latest hot topics in the online community…

Hey guys, I’m reaching out to you from Minneapolis. I would really appreciate your opinion of an English guy, name of Rob Titchener, who’s just blown in looking for work. He reckons he can do just about anything – herd manager, real estate, retail, flood management – but when we asked him for references, he said there was no point on account of they’d be so good, we’d just figure he’d made them all up.  Before we hire him, can you guys give us a heads-up on his resumé? Homer D Brave,

Don’t hire him, whatever you do, Homer! He’s a vicious bully who nearly ruined my daughter’s life! But you don’t need to take my word for it – a psychologist’s report said he had narcissistic personality disorder and will lie and manipulate people to get his way. Pat Archer.

Yes, what Pat said Homer! I had to ban him from the village shop for verbally assaulting the staff. He was banned from the cricket team too for cheating and bullying and he’s a mis-on mis-yng – mis-gon – anyway, he hates women. Susan Carter.

Pat and Susan are right Homer; Rob Titchener is a nasty piece of work. Superficially charming, but unstable, homophobic, with a violent streak. Steer clear. Adam Macy.

Holy moly, let me just check I’ve got this right? Narcissist, misogynist, homophobe, liar, manipulator, bully and cheat. Sure can’t imagine anyone like that getting far here in the US of A! Thanks guys! Homer.

Your week in the stars

With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, astrologer Janet Planet predicts which signs will be luckiest in love…


Single Capricorns have been on the move lately, setting up a new business and settling into a new home. But that doesn’t mean love is off the menu! Expatriate Capricorns may find they have more than an accent in common, especially if they find themselves bonding over a sick pig.


Unrequited love is painful, and when the object of your affections is smitten by someone who is bad for them, it can be hard to stand by and watch. But Pisceans are famously good-hearted and decent, so have faith that your qualities will shine through in the end. And in the meantime, don’t ignore opportunities for romance; a new arrival in the area may think you are the catch of the day!


Much like the bull, Taureans can be stubborn and determined to go it alone. But we all need support sometimes, and that is certainly true when a little one is involved.. Don’t let pride stand in your way of accepting help from senior family members, especially if they are waving their cheque book and promising not to interfere.      


The tropic of Cancer is hot, hot, hot, but those who find themselves swept away by passion must take care not to let reckless behaviour damage their reputations. Sweet nothings are best whispered in the privacy of the boudoir, not the winners’ enclosure at Felpersham Races.