Sunday, 28 May 2017

Justin plots, Pip moves out and Johnny gets lucky: a week of shocks in Ambridge

Shock as piggery plans are leaked  

Borchester Land is readying plans to house more than 15,000 pigs and 500 breeding sows on the site of the Berrow Farm mega-dairy, The Ambridge Observer can exclusively reveal.
It’s believed that Justin Elliott and Brian Aldridge were aiming to sneak the plans past residents next week, while environmental activist Lynda Snell is away celebrating her birthday in Florence.
But thanks to our source, who overheard the BL board members talking while   PAT-testing kettles in the fruit pickers’ caravans at Home Farm, we can report that the huge indoor pig unit could be up and running within a few months.
It is believed that much of the infrastructure for an intensive livestock operation is still in place, with the anaerobic digester ready to handle the vast amounts of slurry that would be generated.
Borchester Land initially refused our requests for a statement, and Brian Aldridge was unavailable as he was acting as temporary co-ordinator for the Speedwatch scheme, according to his wife Jennifer. ‘Oh dear, I was afraid this would get out,’ she said. ‘I won’t be able to go to the shops now without someone button-holing me about this. And poor Lynda! She was looking forward to enjoying the Chiostro dello Scalzo (what this? Ed) without a care in the world, and now she’ll be coming back to a sea of – well, you know!’
However, as The Ambridge Observer went to press, Mr Elliott issued a comment.
‘Residents of Ambridge have no need to be concerned,’ he said. ‘It is in my own interests to look after beautiful surroundings. This is why I have arranged for a forestry contractor to manage the Millennium Wood, where my fiancée Lilian and I love to walk and ride, and why I am siting the pig unit at Berrow Farm, where I never go unless I have to and where the only neighbours are a light engineering firm and Price Baumann with their ridiculous drones.’

 Single wicket hots up

This year’s Ambridge Single Wicket contest, on Bank Holiday Monday, is set to be more competitive than ever. The event is being targeted by female cricketers who feel they have a point to prove after being left out of several matches already this season.
‘The girls are taking it very seriously,’ said one insider. ‘Lily Pargetter is having private coaching with Johnny Phillips, and Anisha Jayakody has lined up Barry Simmons to help with her bowling. It looks like there’s some needle between those two, but my money’s on Anisha. After cheating to beat Jazzer in a drinking contest, who knows what she’d do to get her mitts on the Mark Hebden trophy?’

Scruff Gin readies marketing push

Jolene and Kenton Archer of The Bull are investing a ‘three-figure sum’ to promote Scruff Gin, the artisan brand produced by Toby Fairbrother at Hollowtree. The spend is believed to include posters, coasters (rewrite to avoid rhyme. Who do you think you are – Pam Ayres? Ed) cocktail umbrellas and a loyalty card scheme (pictured).

‘If customers buy nine bottles of Scruff, the tenth is on us!’ said Kenton Archer. ‘We have a slight logistical issue as Toby has only made eight bottles so far, but we’re sure there’s plenty more in the pipeline.’
‘I’ve defined a clear profile of my target customer,’ said Mr Fairbrother. ‘She’s a young, confident farmer, sure of herself, very sexy, with the sun streaming through her blonde hair as she drains a tractor sump… That’s my Scruff girl! And this scheme is designed to get her so drunk she won’t even remember that she dumped me.’

Speedwatch team file first reports

As the first Speedwatch patrols begin operations in Ambridge, Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has released a sample report to show just how effective it is proving. ‘It is a shame there were no actual offences recorded, but I am pleased to see my deputy Derek Fletcher performed his monitoring duties very well,’ said scheme co-ordinator Mrs Lynda Snell.

Wednesday May 24
Patrol: Mrs J. Aldridge, Mrs L. Bellamy
6.30pm Arrive at monitoring station
6.45pm Erect warning sign (hard to get the hang of it)
6.50pm Derek Fletcher
6.53pm Gemma Hawkins, looking vexed
6.55pm Speeding car – 37 mph! Reg number TAB? TAV? Sorry…
7.00pm Derek Fletcher again
7.03pm Tea break
7.10pm Derek Fletcher again
7.15pm Adam Macy on his way home. Coo-ee, Adam!
7.20pm Usha Franks, working late, poor thing
7.29pm 43 m.p.h PC Harrison Burns
The rest of this report has been redacted by the Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit.

From the message boards

This week we drop in on the Ambridge Teen Forum, to see what the younger generation are chatting about online…

• OMG!! I asked Amber to go to the Isle of Wight Festival with me and she said yes! Seems she’s a massive David Guetta fan. Haven’t told her about sharing a tent yet but I’m sure we’ll get on OK. Thanks Lily! If you’d not pushed me into it I’d never have asked her. JohnnyP.
• Oh right, so Amber’s the lucky girl, is she? Don’t tell her you’ve no idea who David Guetta is and you’ll be doing dad-dancing to Rod Stewart! And does she know you smell of cow-(moderated. Check the board rules, guys.) Naomi.
• Naomi, you OK hun? I know it’s hard but Johnny isn’t the right boy for you. Don’t worry, I’ll find you someone much more in your league. Lily P.
• Amber? Talk about out of your league Johnny! I don’t know why you couldn’t take me. Except I’m stuck in Exam Hell and mother would kill me if I went off to a festival. She hates them. And we all know why. Freddie P.
• That’s enough, Freddie. Anyway, it will be more fun at home now that Pip is coming to stay. You can play her your Rag’n’Bone Man album and pretend you’re at the festival. And I can’t wait to get my hands on her hair! She’s a lovely woman, but a stranger to the hot brush. Lily P.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

My husband Neil and I would like to thank everyone who sent their best wishes for his 60th birthday last week, and especially the bell ringers of St Stephen’s for the surprise quarter peal. A lot of people have remarked how well Neil looks for his age and have asked what his secret is. So I thought your readers might like to try his favourite supper. The recipe always puts a smile on his face!

Hot ‘n’ bothered chilli

Serves 2 with plenty of seconds

250g lean, masterful mince
450g tin full of beans
1 big hunk of spicy sausage
450g juicy tomatoes (pommes d’amour)
Chilli oil, as hot as you dare
1 sexy stockman cube
Pinch of cumin get it

Stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer while hubby gets his cocktail shaker out and rustles up a Dirty Banana. Serve with nothing but a smile.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Carter (Mrs), Ambridge View.

Situation vacant

Not-too-personal assistant

Businessman, based in Borsetshire and London, but not that wealthy so don’t get ideas, is looking for someone to manage his correspondence and schedule. This is purely a desk-based role so do not imagine for one second you will be accompanying him to parties or the races. Would suit a no-nonsense, experienced PA, devoid of charisma or personality. Halitosis an advantage. Apply to Lilian Bellamy, the employer’s fiancée, to whom he is totally and permanently committed, c/o The Dower House, Ambridge.  

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Justin compromises, Lily advises and Brian gets his gun – a thrilling week in Ambridge

A win at Darrington – but no girls allowed

Ambridge cricket club secured a precious win against Darrington on Sunday – but only after captain Harrison Burns played an all-male side.
‘It was a three-line whip for the boys, so how could I say no?’ said Adam Macy. ‘You need to be on top of your game against Darrington. And thanks to a gutsy last stand by Chris Carter and Barry Simmons, we ran out very close winners.’
Captain Burns was late for the match, as he was called to a road traffic accident in Edgeley. ‘Rex Fairbrother stood in very well until I arrived,’ he said. ‘But I couldn’t risk having any women in the team this time, certainly not Molly Button. Darrington are terrible sledgers and I wouldn’t trust Molly to contain herself at the crease. If she carried on like she does at nets, poor Bert Fry would walk off the pitch and we do need an umpire.’
Captain Burns said he has yet to pick his team for the next match but is not regretting his controversial decision to allow women to play. ‘Although if Lily Pargetter keeps badgering me about hot showers and scented candles in the pavilion I might have a rethink,’ he said.

Look out! Speedwatch is about

Motorists driving through Ambridge have been warned to stick to speed limits or face a fine, as a new Speedwatch scheme is launched in the village this week.
A group of volunteers has completed their training and will be stationed at the roadside on a rota basis. Two volunteers will be on duty, one to monitor the traffic and the other to record information about offenders. ‘It’s all rather fun,’ said Jim Lloyd. ‘I’ve already spotted a whitethroat and Robert saw a sparrowhawk. And sometimes, a car goes past.’
‘This is the best job I’ve ever had,’ said Mrs Susan Carter. ‘You won’t believe who we saw in Sabrina Thwaite’s car. Well, it wasn’t Richard, that’s for sure. I’ve no idea how fast they were going, mind. Neil was taken short behind a bush with his  speed gun.’
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) said it was too soon to tell how effective the scheme would be. ‘The volunteers were keen, but easily distracted,’ he said. ‘And I had to ask Kate Madikane not to advertise her ear-candling workshops by waving a placard at passing cars. But I would hope the sight of Brian Aldridge in a high-vis tabard would make more than one speed merchant think twice.’  

Bert’s top of the pots

Congratulations to Bert Horrobin of Ambridge, the winner of our latest ‘Antique of the Week’ competition. Mr Horrobin correctly valued this delightful Oriental ceramic duck (pictured) at £4.95.
‘Soon as I saw it I knew it were just like that boxed lot I picked up at Borchester Mop,’ he said. ‘Paid £5 for a dozen of ’em, so add your retail mark-up and I reckon £4.95 apiece is about right.’
However, the competition rolls over until next week as Mr Horrobin does not wish to claim his prize. ‘I wouldn’t have that tat in the ’ouse,’ he said. ‘Sold ’em on to Eddie Grundy as soon as I could. You could try that Miranda Elliott though; seems she paid him handsomely for a pair. Thought they were Ming. More money than sense, some people!’

NEW SERIES: Lily’s lore

She’s wise beyond her years, and she’s all ears! Lily Pargetter is a great listener – and she’s here to advise on your romantic problems.

Dear Lily,
Will I ever find the –

Dear Pip,
Don’t say another word! Your face tells me all I need to know. You’re worried that your relationships with sensible boys always go wrong and you fall for the bad boys who let you down and make you unhappy. It was exactly the same with Miss Lemming, our sociology teacher. All the staff confide in me, you know. Anyway, I told her what I’ll tell you – you will find The One, just as soon as you learn to be a good listener, like me. You’ll see!

Dear Lily,
How am I going to get over –

Dear Toby,
Yes, we all know Pip’s dumped you. But it’s mainly your own fault, isn’t it? You need some tough love. Take Rex’s advice and get on with making your gin. It’s good to keep busy and you might make some cash – and trust me, you’ll never impress another girl if you’re broke. Take pride in what you’re good at. That’s what I said to Mr Rowney in the art department – and look at him now. His gouaches are selling like hot cakes and he’s dating the gallery owner!

Dear Lily,
My colleague Maurice the butcher says –

Dear Tom,
Oh, tell me about it! He says you’re doomed to be a loser in love like him, doesn’t he? Just because you never really got over Brenda and then ruined Kirsty’s life twice? Well, who are you going to listen to? A man whose idea of a good time is making the Eiffel Tower out of matchsticks, or the girl who was voted ‘Most likely to marry a royal’ in the Year 12 poll? Just wait until your fermented foods business is up and running. Think of all those health-conscious ladies who’ll love you for tidying up their gut flora!

Ask Auntie Satya will be back next week. Thank goodness for that. Ed.

A lawyer writes….

Miles Moore-Costlea, family law partner at Fleesome & Leggett in Felpersham,
explains how ‘divorce without tears’ is possible – with the right advice.

The end of a marriage is always a difficult time, but heartache – and cost – can be kept in check if both parties are willing to compromise. It is always best if clients can agree as much as possible between themselves before turning to the law. (I am of course obliged to say that; we much prefer it if couples end up fighting over every ashtray in court).
For example, my client – let us call him ‘J’ – is an extremely wealthy businessman who is divorcing his wife – let us call her ‘M’. I was surprised when ‘J’ told me the outcome of a discussion he and ‘M’ had had about dividing their assets. ‘M’ is keeping the ski lodge in Courchevel and the country house in Aldeburgh, and ‘J’ is making over to her a property business in Scotland, and his race horse. For his part, ‘J’ is retaining his principal business and two Arab horses of which his new partner – let us call her ‘L’ – is particularly fond.
All they have left to discuss is their London properties, including the wine cellar  and their art collection. Although I understand ‘M’ has laid claim to two rare, Ming dynasty ceramic ‘duck pots’ that she acquired in Borsetshire.
I was delighted of course that there was so little acrimony involved. (Actually I was livid as I’ve not reached my fees target this year and at this rate there’ll be no Caribbean winter break for Mrs Moore-Costlea.)
Still, as we often say in law, it’s not over until the fat lady – let us call her ‘M’ – sings. I would be astonished (and extremely disappointed) if ‘J’ has no more need of my services before his decree absolute arrives.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

An accident, a break-up and an uneaten pizza: a week of awkward conversations in Ambridge

Shop reveals a new way to say it

The Ambridge village shop is launching a new range of greetings cards that it claims is more relevant to customers’ “complex modern lives”.
‘Sometimes you need a special card for those occasions when you can’t quite find the words,’ said retail manager Susan Carter.
‘For example, I’m expecting a run on this ‘Hooray! Free at Last!’ card, now that Helen Archer’s decree absolute has come through. I did consider stocking: ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than live with the psycho the rest of your life’, but decided against it on taste grounds.
‘And of course there’s this one: ‘Congratulations on your divorce and your engagement!’ (pictured).
Perfect for Justin Elliott and Lilian, especially for well-wishers who like to economise.’
‘And this one will do well: ‘I’m really so terribly, awfully, dreadfully sorry’. You can personalise it, so for instance you can add ‘Mum and Dad’ if you’re Pip Archer, or ‘Peggy’ if you’re Brian Aldridge. Actually, I’m hoping Brian will place a bulk order because he’s got so many people to apologise to after running over Peggy’s cat.’
Mrs Carter said she monitors village events carefully in order to choose just the right cards for her customers to express their sentiments to each other.
‘After Friday night, I think I’ll order a few ‘Sorry the relationship everyone thought was the worst decision of your life has ended’ for Pip’s friends and family,’ she said. ‘And I suppose someone might want to send a ‘Bad luck old chap, plenty more fish in the sea,’ card to Toby Fairbrother, but frankly I doubt it.’

Tech firm offers exciting overview

Local tech start-up Price Baumann is offering local farmers a free aerial survey of their crops in order to demonstrate how versatile its drone technology can be. ‘People think it’s only for barley barons like my father Brian, who take days to cross their fields in a tractor, but actually even old-fashioned meadow-lovers like my brother Adam can benefit too,’ said sales executive (Midlands and West region) Alice Carter.
‘The thing is, if you’ve got cattle grazing a species-rich pasture, the grazing will change the composition of the pasture over time and that will affect the performance of the cattle,’ she said. ‘With a drone, you can whizz up and see what’s going on, in time to sow some more of those seed thingies, or whatever it is you do.’
Mrs Carter said she hoped to offer the free service to Eddie Grundy of Grange Farm, to investigate his Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). ‘Jill Archer told me it’s a terrible muddy mess, when Lower Loxley’s meadow, which is very similar, is looking lovely,’ she said. ‘I’m sure a drone camera could spot what’s going on straightaway.’
Contacted by the Ambridge Observer, Mr Grundy said he was ‘not interested’ in Price Baumann’s offer. ‘A drone won’t find anything wrong with my SSSI, not even the pigs that were never on it,’ he said. ‘All it needs is a packet of mixed annuals and a squirt of Miracle Gro. Alice Carter can mind her own business and I’ll get my Will to shoot down any UFO that invades our air space.’

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

Some of your readers may already know that Mrs Peggy Woolley’s cat Bill was very sadly run over and killed by a car in Ambridge this week. Poor Bill had been struggling with food issues and was unfortunately too portly to evade the speeding vehicle.
Naturally the thoughts of the whole village are with Mrs Woolley and her house-mate Christine Barford, who was so upset she refused to eat and had to be talked down from her room by Jill Archer with a plate of scones.
But I am pleased to report that some good is set to come out of their tragic loss.
Overcome with sympathy – he told me he could not imagine how awful the driver of the car would be feeling – Brian Aldridge, his wife Jennifer, daughter Kate and sister-in-law Lilian have all volunteered to join the Speedwatch team that will monitor the appalling level of dangerous driving that is currently afflicting the village. I hope that many more people will follow their example and join us. Only when every single Ambridge resident is out on the streets with hi-vis gilet, speed gun and clipboard will we end this scourge! And poor Bill will not have died in vain.

Yours faithfully,

Lynda Snell, Ambridge Hall. (Note to subs: do not head this letter ‘Dead cat bounce’. Ed)

The Trials of… Anisha Jayakody

In the first chapter of our NEW romantic summer saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine realises that love is not such an easy game to play… 

‘So, Anisha! How was your week?’ Rex’s warm brown eyes twinkled at her as he carefully completed his pre-run stretches. She couldn’t help but notice his well-muscled shape under the faded rugby club tracksuit.
‘Oh, you know – up and down,’ she grinned. ‘Dead cat on Tuesday – shame, but I’d told Mrs Woolley his fat would kill him one way or another. But I had a really interesting chat with Matt Crawford about race horses yesterday. He reckons his contact Latif Hussein, who’s a big owner, might be looking for a new vet.’
‘Wow! I’m impressed!’ Rex re-tied his trainers in a neat double knot. ‘But isn’t that a bit… ambitious?’
‘Ach, jings, man, ye sound like Alistair! Ambition’s my middle name, ye ken!’ Anisha was hopping up and down on the spot, keen to be away. ‘Come on Rex, loser buys the first round!’   

Anisha stretched like a cat (obviously a much slimmer one than Bill) on Bert’s comfy old sofa. ‘Down time, Anisha. Give that fierce ambition a night off!’ she told herself. Rex bounded in from the kitchen carrying plates, cutlery and paper towels. ‘Pizza’s on its way, film’s ready – enjoy!’ he said, sitting down close to her on the sofa. ‘And we’ve got the place to ourselves. Toby and Pip will be in the pub for hours…’ He leaned towards her, and she took in his warm scent of aftershave and liniment. ‘Oh, Rex, I….’
Crash! The front door was kicked open and Toby burst in. ‘OK bro, you win. She dumped me!’ he yelled. ‘The sensible, reasonable one gets his way as usual. Pip’s all yours matey!’
Anisha looked on, horrified, as the brothers squared up to each other. ‘What’s up, Rex?’ she asked. ‘Surely you can’t prefer that feckless farm girl, with very unsound views on Brexit, to a feisty, ambitious Glaswegian like me?’ Rex turned towards her, and there was an awful moment of silence as she saw the truth in his eyes…


‘Well actually Anisha, Pip is a jolly fine farmer!’ Rex’s nostrils flared in indignation, like an angry Irish cob. Two high spots of colour appeared on his cheekbones.  ‘And we did almost have a thing once, except first she was soppy about Matthew and then she snogged Akash at Alice’s party and then she got off with Toby. But honestly, I’ve forgotten all about that. I can’t even remember exactly what shade of blue her eyes are now – I’ll have to check the picture by the side of my bed…. Wait, Anisha! Where are you going? What about the pizza?’
But Anisha had grabbed her jacket and rushed out, pushing past Toby, who was glugging Bert’s tonic wine straight from the bottle.
In the chilly dark air outside, realisation struck her like a blow. What a fool she’d been! To think she’d nearly fallen for a failure like Rex – a taxi driver, for God’s sake! – who’d rather be with dull old Pip than a bright, feisty, independent, high-flying Glaswegian with a gift for equine enucleation! ‘Ach! Ah cannae be arsed wi yon bawbag! Not wi’ tuna on his pizza an’ all,’ she said aloud as she marched back to Blossom Hill Cottage. Thrusting her hands in her pockets, she found Matt Crawford’s business card. Now there was a man blazing with ambition, like her! Would he still be up at this hour, she wondered…    
To be continued….