Sunday, 23 April 2017

An election, an engagement and Lizzie at 50: it’s party time in Ambridge!

Election shock: it’s party time!

With this week’s news that a General Election will be held on June 8, we asked some Ambridge residents about their voting intentions: 

Lily Pargetter, Lower Loxley. I’m a few months too young to vote. So annoying! But I’m supporting the Greens because it’s my favourite colour. I wish their logo was sea green, though. Very eco, and it would suit my skin tone. So important when you’re choosing a rosette to wear, don't you think?

Neil Carter, Ambridge View. As chair of Ambridge Parish Council, this general election’s a nightmare for us. We have to go into purdah and that means we can’t make any decisions, like awarding the contract to empty the dog bins on the village green. At this rate the Brownies will be knee-deep by Whitsun.

Emma Grundy, Grange Farm. Another election already? I don’t suppose it will make any difference. We don’t have much politics in Ambridge. We saw our MP in Borchester once. He tried to pick Keira up and she was sick on his suit. Ed and me are saving for a place of our own, but that would take a miracle, not a new Prime Minister.

Toby Fairbrother, Rickyard Cottage. I’d vote for the party that’s best for small business, because I’m trying to find investors for my artisan gin (you don’t know anyone, do you?) But actually, I never got round to registering to vote – don’t like the idea of being pinned down, know what I mean?

Anisha Jayakody, The Stables. It’s Jeremy Corbyn for me. Anyone who’s against fat cats gets my vote. You wouldn’t believe the huge old tabbies who come waddling into my surgery, and that’s just the owners – as I said to Peggy Woolley only the other day.

Justin Elliott, The Dower House. My team and I will be monitoring the markets carefully in the run-up to the election. Businesses like certainty, so it’s Mrs May for me. I like a woman with a good big mandate and I’m not averse to the smack of firm government on the fundamentals. Just ask my fiancée Lilian!   

Coffee break with… Josh Archer

In our series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we catch up with the high-flying young gun behind a local start-up, Ambridge Farm Machinery.

Q So Josh, tell us about your new business. What gave you the idea?
A Look, if you don’t want the damn tractor, just say so and don’t waste my time… Sorry, what? I was on the phone to a customer. I’ve got 10 minutes before my next call. What do you want?

Q Um, we just wanted to know how your business started. Did you have any help from your family at Brookfield?
A God no. How stupid are you? I spend all my time clearing up their messes, not the other way round. Mum and dad are relics, Ben’s useless and Pip needs to take responsibility for stuff, man up and stop sobbing like a girl. Well, she is a girl. Anyway. Next question?

Q What about your team? You work with Rex Fairbrother, is that right?
A Yeah, Rex is OK. Got about as much brain as one of his chickens, but he’s good with the customers. Some of them don’t like me, for some reason. Anyway, this is my business, not Rex’s. You gotta wheel and deal, not spend your time worrying about people’s feelings. Haven’t you got any better questions?

Q Well, since you mention it, we’ve spoken to customers who say some of the machines on your site are overpriced. How would you respond to that?
A Who said that? That loser over in Edgeley? I knew it! That was all Rex’s fault! God, am I expected to do everything around here? This interview stops right now. And remember to say I’m a lovely guy who deserves all the success he’s going to get, OK? (Note to sales team: charge him double for his next ad. What a ghastly little twerp. Ed.)

Ask Auntie Satya

With her unique mixture of warm wit and forensic legal skills, Auntie Satya is on hand to advise on your practical and moral dilemmas!

Dear Auntie Satya,
It was my 50th birthday party this week and, without asking me, my daughter invited some Facebook friends I hadn’t seen for years, including two old boyfriends. I spent some of the evening hiding from them in the kitchen, and at one point I had to fend one off with a plate of canapés! How should I discipline my daughter? Lizzie.

Dear Lizzie,
On the contrary Lizzie, it seems to me that your daughter was very thoughtful, especially as in your longer letter you tell me that your family all hate each other at the moment and she was concerned that no one would attend your soirée. The fault is all yours. What mother allows her daughter access to her Facebook page, which should be reserved for humble-bragging to other parents about your offspring? And why have you not unfriended people you do not like IRL (if I have the terminology correctly)? If you would not be happy for someone to wish you a happy birthday by making a pass over the mini falafel, do not admit them to your virtual social circle.

Dear Auntie Satya,
How do you know if you are too old for a mid-life crisis? My husband and I went through a rocky patch in our marriage recently, and I flirted (or tried to, he wasn’t keen, poor man) with an ex. But now we seem to have rediscovered our spark. He has invested huge amounts in his veterinary practice and has taken on a spirited young partner who wants him to ‘think big’ and specialise in race horses instead of obese cats and ancient ponies. Everything seems to be going so well. Do you think our marriage is over the worst? Shula.

Dear Shula,
I believe you have no need to worry by imagining a mid-life crisis. From what you tell me, a real-life crisis should be on its way soon enough.

Dear Auntie Satya,
My relationship with my daughter has reached rock-bottom. She made a mistake and then lied about it for weeks. It’s had a terrible effect on our finances and we’ve fallen out with all our family because of it. I’ve supported her in the past but this week I told her I am ashamed of her and do not know who she is any more. Is there any way back for us? Ruth.

Dear Ruth,
If the situation is as bad as your longer letter describes, I would advise you to focus more on your relationship with your lawyer than your daughter in the coming weeks. Your family ties are strong enough to survive this, but your family business may not be. In the meantime, why not unfriend your daughter on Facebook? It is the only kind of punishment young people these days understand, and you will be spared her ramblings about how guilty she feels, how unsupportive her boyfriend is, and how life is so unfair.        

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Susan stars, Tom fumes and Lilian pops the question: a rip-roaring week in Ambridge

Cricket club reveals ‘secret weapons’

The Ambridge cricket team will be strengthened on and off the pitch this season, as captain Harrison Burns announced two key signings this week.
‘It took some persuasion, but the lads in the team have really embraced women,’ he said. (Surely not? We’ll get letters. Ed). ‘At our open nets try-outs, Susan Carter emerged as a useful top order batswoman with a fearless, swashbuckling style.
And I’m pleased to say Usha Franks will be taking on a non-playing role as Inspirational Coach, which I believe is a first in the Borsetshire Cricket League.’
The appointments follow a turbulent few weeks for the club, which faced a recruitment crisis and then a boycott by female players who accused the captain of ageism and sexism.
‘I’m really pleased to put that myth to rest,’ said Harrison Burns. ‘Anyone who saw Susan Carter with her kit off in the Ambridge calendar knows she’s no spring chicken. And we won’t need sledging to distract the opposition with young Lily Pargetter and her friend Amber around, know what I mean?’ (Oh please. This gets worse. Ed) 
Mrs Carter said she was looking forward to joining her son Chris in the Ambridge team. ‘Fancy, maybe he gets his sporting talent from me, not his dad!’ she said. ‘And I’ve got so many ideas to help Usha boost team morale. I’m thinking the bowlers could wear name badges saying “Hello, I’m Roy (or whoever); how may I get you out today?” ‘

Exclusive: that Bridge Farm blog in full

The Borsetshire farming community was rocked this week as the bitter row about the outbreak of infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) in Ambridge reached new heights.
The National Farmers’ Union was dragged into the controversy when committee member Nick Spring was forced to defend Borsetshire former chair David Archer of Brookfield against accusations of being a ‘lousy farmer’, which spread on social media.
‘Feelings are running high, which is not surprising as several farms have lost beasts to IBR,’ said Mr Spring. ‘But I’ve shared enough pork pies with David Archer to know that he’s a fine, conscientious farmer. Maybe not quite as good as his father, but then, who is?’
Angry local farmers claim that IBR was spread to their herds via non-certified dairy cattle at Brookfield. In a blog post published on the Bridge Farm website this week, Tom Archer wrote: (Sorry, legal is having kittens over this. And change the headline. Ed).
‘I've never been so angry,’ David Archer told the Ambridge Observer. ‘So much for solidarity among farmers. We are all in this IBR together, and our vet tells us we may never find out what caused it. The fact that I didn’t check the paperwork doesn’t mean those cattle we bought in a hurry actually had IBR. And I know for certain our cattle never, ever strayed off Brookfield land. Not once.
‘Hang on a minute – my daughter Pip is trying to tell me something. I’ll call you back.’
The Ambridge Observer has since tried to contact Mr Archer, but he is not returning our calls.

Personal Announcements

The engagement is announced between Justin, son of the late Mr and Mrs Peregrine Elliott, formerly of Rhodesia, and Lilian Bellamy, daughter of Mrs Peggy Woolley and the late Mr Jack Archer, of Ambridge, Borsetshire.

New series: How we met

Justin Elliott and Lilian Bellamy reveal the romantic story behind their announcement in this week’s Ambridge Observer.

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.

Beekeepers prepare for Spring

Borsetshire Apiarists Group (BAG) discussed the dangers of colony collapse disorder, and how to recover in time for summer, its April meeting. Mrs Jill Archer of Brookfield explained how it causes nearly all the worker bees to disappear, leaving only an old queen. ‘I thought I’d fed them enough flapjacks over the winter but it seems it wasn’t enough, ‘said Mrs Archer. ‘But to be honest, I don’t blame the bees for giving up. The atmosphere at Brookfield has been dreadful recently, with everyone falling out and blaming each other. The bees know, you know.’
On a brighter note, BAG welcomed Kirsty Miller to the meeting as a new associate member.
‘I like bees,’ said Ms Miller. ‘At least you know they might sting you, so you can wear a protective suit. You can’t do that with people. And if I get some hives, maybe it will make people think twice before getting too close.’

Notice: St Stephen’s Easter Prayer Chain

Please send in your prayer requests for those in need in our community. This Holy Week, we are praying for all those who live in:

Grange Farm: may those who are working nights to buy treats for their children not step on Lego as they tiptoe upstairs, and may their spouses support them instead of feeling sorry for themselves.
Home Farm: may those who are easily wound up not throw insults around at the golf club, and accept graciously any gifts of wine, even though they are cheap and come from a small time crook who thinks he is the Napoleon of Borsetshire.
Brookfield: may those who are sorely burdened with guilt experience the relief of confessing their sins, and may their partners support them loyally and not sulk about their gin business or disappear off to Brighton.
Bridge Farm: may those who long for revenge instead find it in their hearts to forgive,and may they lend David Archer their tractor as otherwise it will cost him £18,000 to hire one.
Whereabouts unknown: may the lost soul who left Ambridge recently come to understand that no one is beyond the love and forgiveness of God.  The Vicar is very competitive and hates it when a sinner gets away.

And a very happy Easter to all our readers!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Matt’s back and families at war – a week of shocks in Ambridge

‘Notorious crook’ at large in Ambridge, police warn

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) told a packed press conference this week that convicted fraudster Matt Crawford, who fled Ambridge more than two years ago, has returned to the village.
‘This is an opportunity for me to close one of my most difficult cases,’ said PC Burns. ‘I still remember how devastated Mrs Lilian Bellamy was when she found that Mr Crawford had gone and the Dower House had been stripped of cash and valuables – except for the print of ‘The Crying Boy’ that not even he would touch.
‘It was thought that Mr Crawford’s escape to Costa Rica had put him beyond the reach of international justice,’ said PC Burns. ‘But now he is back in Ambridge, this is another chance for me to get my man. And frankly, this couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I can show I do care about older ladies, as they all hate me just now because of the cricket team.’
PC Burns said Mr Crawford had been seen outside the Dower House on Friday, smoking a large cigar and carrying an enormous bunch of flowers.
‘Given Mr Crawford’s track record, we can only assume he is up to no good,’ said PC Burns.
Contacted by The Ambridge Observer, Mrs Bellamy said she was unable to comment. ‘It’s all rather awkward darling, if you know what I mean,’ she said.

Gin king defiant over trade talks

The fledgling gin business run by Toby Fairbrother is still looking for capital after turning down an ‘impossible’ offer of investment this week.
‘I wasn’t surprised that Kenton and Jolene Archer were prepared to back me, as the new marshmallow flavouring is a winner,’ said Mr Fairbrother. ‘It’s so good, focus groups can’t find the words to describe it. It literally leaves them struggling to speak!’
‘Kenton and Jolene loved the ‘Moon Goddess’ concept I’d come up with,’ he added. ‘In fact Mrs Archer was keen to model for the artwork. I was fine with that. Nothing says “marshmallow” quite like Jolene’s assets!’
Mr Fairbrother said he was also prepared to feature The Bull on the bottles. ‘But then Kenton said he wanted to change the name from ‘Fairbrother Gin’ to ‘Archer Gin’, he revealed. ‘At that point I walked away. As I said to my girlfriend Pip, no deal is better than a bad deal!’

NEW SERIES: Teen talk

The secret diary of Ben Archer, aged 15 and three weeks


Stayed in my room all morning. Told mum I was doing homework and she’s still so upset about Tom telling Dad off she believed me. Josh said my music was so loud he couldn’t hear himself making money with his second-hand tractors so I turned it up louder. Went out with mum to buy a game. Met Uncle Kenton in Borchester. He and mum were talking about Black Death and Che Guevara. I said I’d already got that game. So lame.


So, hello from Lurgy Boy. Lurgy Boy of year 11. So maybe the IBR did come from Brookfield. Not my fault! School sucks. I’m not going again this week. Told mum I was ill and she just said ‘OK Ben, just don’t upset your dad, pet.’ He didn’t even notice. Gran said he was cross because Joe Grundy had been very rude about him in The Bull. She was upset too. Didn’t mind when I took three extra flapjacks. The only good thing about today. Except for seeing Josh with his laptop at the bus stop. He said it was too noisy to work at home. Like he’s working. He can’t even code.


Stayed at home. Pip said she’d make me lunch and I got beans on burnt toast. Ate it ‘cos I was starving. Forgot you’re supposed to be off your food when you’re ill. Lucky I’d got the flapjacks. Pip said: ‘Ben, if you’d done something wrong, and knew you should own up to mum and dad, but they’ve already got so much to worry about, what would you do?” No idea what she was talking about. Mum came home in a worse state than ever. She’d had a massive row with Helen about the IBR and made Clarrie Grundy cry. Something about e.Coli that I don’t remember. Then Mum started to cry and tried to give me a hug. So I just turned my music up. Why can’t everyone just leave me alone????!!!!!  

A word from St Stephen’s

To mark the beginning of Holy Week, the Revd Alan Franks writes:

As I sit here typing this, I am looking at a Christmas cactus on my study desk – a gift to my wife Usha from a parishioner. You could call it a peace offering, in fact: an attempt to apologise for some ill-chosen words. But if you knew my wife, you’d know she isn’t easily won over by a mere gesture. Usha had already suggested several places she would like to put it – all of them highly inappropriate for a clergy wife!
But I felt the little plant is a fitting symbol to inspire my Palm Sunday sermon.
Because when you think about it, isn’t Ambridge a bit like that cactus just now? Everywhere I go I see people being spiky and defensive, unable to get close because of the prickly barriers they have put up, causing pain with sharp, barbed words.
As we all know, Lent is a time for reflection and repentance. So I hope we can all put our differences about cows with runny noses behind us. And especially, I pray that the parishioner who upset my wife will do the right thing and allow older ladies to join the cricket team. Usha freely admits her ball skills may be lacking. But she has a wealth of life experience!

So let us all wish each other a peaceful Holy Week, and spare a thought for your long-suffering vicar on Palm Sunday. It’s never easy sharing the pulpit with Shula’s incontinent donkey!

STOP PRESS: W.I changes programme 


A talk to Ambridge W.I. by Mr Joe Grundy: 'Plague farm: how the Archers of Brookfield spread disease through the ages' has been cancelled following a threat of legal action from Mr David Archer. Instead, Kirsty Miller of Grey Gables will demonstrate the new 'FabFace' beauty range and talk about her experience of existential angst. Refreshments provided.