Saturday, 24 November 2018

Tom's elated, Russ is deflated and Brian's still got it at 75

Aldridge hailed as saviour of the shoot

Brian Aldridge of Home Farm was described as a hero for saving the day after a Borchester Land shoot was disrupted by vandals this week. ‘There was so much damage to the morning drives I thought I’d have to cancel, and Martyn Gibson would’ve been ever so cross,’ said gamekeeper Will Grundy. ‘But Mr Aldridge knew exactly what to do. He said we should start with the afternoon drives instead, and do the morning drives after lunch, once the birds had come back to roost. He’s a genius and no mistake.’
Mr Aldridge said he was happy to help, even though he is no longer responsible for the shoot. ‘Experience tells, and I’m delighted the guns had a good day,’ he said. ‘And anyone who suggests I went joyriding and caused the damage myself, just to prove I’ve still got the old magic even though I’m 75 now, will be hearing from my lawyers.’
STOP PRESS: Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) confirmed the damage was caused by a stolen pick-up found abandoned near Willow Farm. ‘I conducted extensive enquiries,’ he said. ‘I asked David Archer where his boys were that night, and he said they were tucked up in bed, so that’s absolutely fine. I was hoping it wasn’t anyone in the village, to be honest, as it was my day off.’ 

Canterbury Tales script gets mixed reviews

Lynda Snell’s ground-breaking approach to The Canterbury Tales, which blends the classic text with references to present-day Ambridge, is causing controversy among the cast. 
At a rehearsal this week, Eddie Grundy, who witnesses said was already ‘well refreshed’ after a visit to the cider shed, objected to the lines: ‘If I say things wrong or arse about, it’s not me talking it’s the pint of Shires I’ve had.’  
‘Eddie was in quite a strop,’ said a cast member. ‘He said the lines didn’t rhyme or scan and were an insult as he only says things arse about after five pints of Shires, not one. And he said a line about his old man describing a woman as ‘fit as a ferret’ was disrespectful to Joe. There was quite a scene. I thought he was going to walk off the show.’
But other actors said they thought rehearsals were going well. ‘Me and Ed really like our script from The Knight’s Tale,’ said Emma Grundy. ‘Especially: ‘Ed and me want our own house, instead of sleeping in a ditch, but we are poor and not very rich; and Hannah Riley is a smelly old…’  (That’s enough. Ed).

Karate stars’ time to shine

Ambridge’s very own karate kids were celebrating this week after receiving their red belts, marking their achievement after a term of classes.
‘I’m very proud of all the pupils,’ said the sensei Mr Lee. ‘They’ve done well, especially Keira Grundy, who can now keep still for more than five seconds, and Henry Archer, who managed a whole class without biting anyone or pushing them over.’
The juniors will start working towards their yellow belts after Christmas and Mr Lee said his next goal is to work with the adult class to help them improve their skills. ‘Adults can be more challenging as people bring different experiences to the class,’ he said.’For example, Helen Archer turned a very funny colour when I said I’d love to give her a belt.’

Ask Auntie Satya 

With her warm wit and forensic legal skills, Auntie Satya is here to sort out all your emotional and practical dilemmas.

Dear Auntie Satya,

My girlfriend – or should I say, my muse – left our love-nest in Manchester to visit her sick mother last week and seems reluctant to return even though I call her several times a day. I’m concerned she is missing her university studies, and as an artist, I find myself staring at the empty canvas without her to inspire me. Also, I’m running out of clean clothes and I don’t know how to work the washing machine. How can I persuade her to come home? Russ.

Dear Russ, 

This separation must be difficult for both of you. In your longer letter, you tell me your girlfriend’s grant and part-time earnings pay the rent on your flat while you explore the Manchester art scene. Perhaps if you were to look for a paid job, this would help pass the time until your girlfriend resumes her duties as muse, housekeeper and breadwinner? Just in case she is away for longer than you think.

Dear Auntie Satya,

Since my girlfriend came back from a visit to her family in Bulgaria, things have not been right between us. She says she still loves me, but she’s moved out of our home, turned down the job I arranged for her and is staying with friends, for whom she’s agreed to be a surrogate mother (sorry Auntie Satya, it’s a bit complicated).  I’m determined to get her back. What would you advise? Roy.

Dear Roy, 

You tell me you’ve tried scented candles, baking her favourite Bulgarian dessert and giving her plenty of space, especially in the bedroom department. With the festive season approaching, I suggest you try a trip to Birmingham Christmas market, a selection of horror novels and a reminder that if she marries you now, she may be able to jump the employment queue ahead of Brexit. But if none of these appeals to her, I’m afraid you may have to let this lady go.  

Dear Auntie Satya,

My housemate and I have had a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship, but recently I spent the night with the woman of my dreams. I told my housemate how amazing it was and how I was grateful to her for being such a good sport and helping me get back in the saddle, relationships-wise. But instead of being happy for me, she just screamed and tipped a pan of spaghetti carbonara down my trousers. What did I do wrong? Tom.  

Dear Tom,

If you really have to ask this question, I fear there is no point in my expending any energy at all on replying to you. 

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Jill lets fly, a new face at The Bull and a shock for Lily ...

Planners face fruity protest

Mrs Jill Archer of Brookfield was ejected from a Borsetshire District Council planning meeting last week after causing a major disruption.
Mrs Archer, a former Ambridge parish councillor, was objecting to an application by Damara Capital to reduce the number of affordable homes in its Beechwood development near Bridge Farm, Ambridge. 
But when the planning committee voted to grant the application, Mrs Archer produced a large basket from under her seat and pelted councillors with fruit  flapjacks.
‘It was the only way to make them listen,’ said an unrepentant Mrs Archer. ‘This decision just means more profits for Damara and fewer affordable houses that are really needed in Ambridge. Throwing flapjacks may be drastic, but it worked when we protested about the Duxford sisters and Les Soeurs Heureuses. No one has heard of them since.’
A spokesperson for Borsetshire District Council said it would not bring charges against Mrs Archer. ‘Obviously we can't condone such behaviour, but the democratic process will not be derailed by flying flapjacks, no matter how tasty,’ she said. 

New senior staff at The Bull

The Bull in Ambridge is rolling out its plan to attract a younger crowd by appointing Oliver Sterling as part-time barman in the run-up to Christmas. ‘Oliver is well-known in the British Legion, the Darby & Joan club and the U3A,’ said landlord Kenton Archer. ‘As most of our customers are in their nineties, he’ll lower the demographic by at least 10 years. It will be good for Joe Grundy and Bert Fry to have a young whipper-snapper behind the bar.’
‘I was rattling around at Grey Gables, so I’m looking forward to the new challenge,’ said Mr Sterling. ‘If I can just get my head round this new-fangled decimal currency I’m sure I’ll be fine.’ 

Rats turn tails at The Tales

Lynda Snell’s Christmas production of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales suffered another setback this week when the resident rats at Brookfield, who were due to appear as extras, downed tools. ‘Our barn has been cleaned and dusted and our nests swept away,’ said a spokesrat for the troupe.  ‘We can’t be expected to work in these intolerable conditions, so we're moving to Lower Loxley, where we believe we’ll feel much more at home.’

Can you help Hilda find a furrever home?

Hilda is a bright, lively little girl who can be a tiny bit grumpy at times. She loves smaller animals, especially minced, and has favourite tricks, like lying very still on the stairs and leaping up when an old lady is coming down. Surprise!! Hilda would be happier in a large home without any soft furnishings or valuable objects. She can be a little bit challenging around children, older people, dogs, postmen and vets. Could you find it in your heart to make Hilda your next fur baby? If so, when collecting her, please wear eye protectors and industrial gauntlets, and bring a net and a trident.  Apply: Cutiekits Cat Rehoming, Penny Hassett. 

The Trials of Lily Pargetter

In the latest chapter of our passionate Autumn saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine finds herself torn between love and duty…

‘Lily darling! Is there any spirulina and kale smoothie left? My tum-tum is a little bit growly this morning.’ Lily looked up from her essay and suppressed a sigh as Russ appeared in the doorway, rubbing his stomach under his shortie silk kimono.
‘I don’t know, sorry. I’m trying to finish this, and then I’ve got to get to work…’ Russ gave her his disappointed face. ‘Oh, sweetie,’ he said. ‘You wouldn’t want Russ to start on his new masterpiece without a healthy breakfast, now would you?’
He came over and ruffled her hair, which for some reason she didn’t find as endearing as usual. ‘No, of course not darling,’ she said, reaching for her purse. ‘I’ll just go down to the organic shop and… Russ? I thought we had £20 left for the weekend?’
He looked sheepish. ‘Oh, sorry darling. I needed some more Burnt Umber and just couldn’t resist…’ Catching her angry frown, he said: ‘Don’t worry my pet; it will all be fine when my paintings start selling…’
‘Well, maybe if you could just finish one first…’ Lily bit her lip to avoid starting another row. ‘OK! I’ll be back soon.’ She rushed out of the flat,  but as she reached the deli her phone pinged with a message. Probably Russ, reminding her to get some sourdough. But no, it was Johnny Phillips. ‘Hey Lily, reckon you should come home. Your mum’s in a bit of a state…’ 

Ambridge! Lily’s eyes began to water, and not just at the smell from the Berrow Farm pig unit. She got out of the Uber she’d taken from Hollerton Junction, putting her credit card under even more strain, and walked down the familiar drive to Lower Loxley. Oh dear, she thought. Johnny was right to text her. The drive was overgrown, the windows dirty. And where was Geraldine, who was usually bustling about with her clipboard? 
Pushing her way through a mound of unopened mail, she found Elizabeth in the office, hunched over her laptop, surrounded by piles of paper and dirty coffee cups. The phone was ringing, but she ignored it and it clicked onto a message: ‘Elizabeth? It’s Oliver. I’m awfully worried about our Hunt Ball bucking bronco. Call me back?’ But her mum was oblivious as she hammered furiously away at the keyboard, pens stuck in her hair and an agonised expression on her face.
‘Mum? Is that you?’  Elizabeth spun round and stared at her, unseeing, then suddenly broke into a beaming smile. ‘Lily, darling! I wasn’t expecting you!’
She swept her up into a hug. There was an unwashed aroma, reminding Lily slightly of Berrow Farm. 
‘Mum? What’s going on? And where’s Geraldine?’ 
‘Oh, I sacked her. No, she walked out. Anyway, she’s not here. Who cares? Now, what have you heard about Freddie?’
Lily surveyed the chaos, and sank into the nearest chair. Her phone buzzed yet again – another message from Russ, asking when she’d be back and where she’d  put his clean socks. She switched it off. To think she’d dreamed of coming home for some TLC and a cash handout! ‘Welcome to the real world, Lily,’ she smiled ruefully to herself.

To be continued….  

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Trouble for Tom, Jim ruffles feathers and another new arrival at Brookfield

Ambridge pilgrims make slow progress

With rehearsals of Lynda Snell’s Canterbury Tales barely under way, creative differences in the production team are already causing tensions, according to sources.
‘Lynda's very proud of her script, which she claims is a sensitive, modern and compelling reworking of the classic text,’ said a cast member. ‘For example, she thinks that Harry Bailey, host of the Tabard Inn, should give each pilgrim a polyester tabard and a name badge, so the audience can relate the telling of tales to the gossip one hears at the village shop.
‘When Jim Lloyd said this was Chaucer, not Coronation Street, I thought Lynda was going to deck him. Something’s got to give or there will be no Christmas production at this rate.’
Contacted for comment, Mrs Snell said rumours of rows were greatly exaggerated. ‘Of course, there will be teething troubles while people settle into their roles,’ she said. ‘Jim is tremendously valuable as my script supervisor, as long as he remembers he is supervising my script, not writing his own. I cannot allow the full and final flowering of my genius to be marred by pettifogging details about historical accuracy or cultural integrity.’

Pet of the Week

Name: Bess
Belongs to: Ben Archer, Brookfield
Job: trainee sheep dog
Likes: long walks, sleeping in the shed (or she will when she gets used to it) 
Dislikes: being taken away from her brothers and sisters (oh, stop it. She’s a working dog. Ed.)
Do say: ‘She’s got a sharp eye. No wonder Farmer Barker thought she was a fine choice.’
Don’t say: ‘Hope Ben doesn’t run her over with the farm pick-up like he did that poor badger.’

The Trials of Tom Archer 

In the latest chapter of our passionate Autumn saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero dares to dream. Is the love he longs for finally within his reach?

Tom was pacing the yard, waiting for Natasha to arrive. Having ignored his texts for weeks, suddenly she seemed keen to meet. But was it him, or the need to find new domestic markets, given the growing uncertainty over post-Brexit fruit export arrangements, that drew her to Bridge Farm? Soon, he would find out….
His phone buzzed.  ‘Oh hi Hannah mate,’ he grinned. ‘I’m a bit busy for a shag at lunchtime – Natasha’s coming and you know I prefer her. But maybe we could hook up later?’
‘Don’t you lunchtime me, Tom Archer,’ she scolded. ‘I was just about to tell you why I don’t trust men, because my dad left when I was little, so you’d come to love me and we could have a wonderful time at the glittering Nuffield awards gala in Glasgow. But you can stuff your invitation. I’m going to take my rage out on Duncan the tardy pigman instead.’
‘Oh, OK then… but I’m still up for a Netflix and chill…’ There was a strangled scream and a crash, as if Hannah had thrown her mobile across the room. Tom shook his head and smiled ruefully. Women, eh? He’d never understand them…   


Half an hour later, Tom and Natasha were sitting in a cosy alcove of the Bridge Farm tea room, each with one of Fallon’s Marshmallow and Toffee Apple Mochachocacappuccinos.
‘If you don’t mind me asking, old girl, have you lost a bit of condition? If you were a pig I’d be supplementing your ration!’ He smiled at his own wit, but to his dismay her blue, saucer-like eyes brimmed with tears. ‘Oh Tom,’ she sniffed. Her sexy Welsh lilt reminded him of his mother when she was younger. ‘It’s heartbreak. You see, I was with Gethin for 10 years, but it wasn’t working. So I had to finish things, and it didn’t seem right to be texting you and well, you know… when I felt bad about hurting him.’  She looked up through long, dark lashes that reminded Tom of one of the prettier Anguses. His heart melted. ‘Oh, Natasha,’ he breathed. ‘I so understand.  Driving a hard bargain for bulk supplies of fruit drinks is the last thing you need. You deserve so much better.’
He got up and reached out to her. Smiling nervously, she put her hand – soft, but with a hint of assertiveness that thrilled him – in his. ‘What did you have in mind, Tom?’ she asked, with an irresistibly seductive smile. Tom didn’t hesitate. ‘A quick tour of the agroforestry site. I’m desperate to know your views on cultivator and compost versus sub-soiler and mulch!’

To be continued…    

Letter to the Editor   

Dear Madam,

I would like to put the record straight about recent events at Lower Loxley, following the pack of lies published in your gutter-press rival, the Borchester Echo, last week. (Liking this so far. Ed.)
It was quite wrong to say that my son Freddie is an imprisoned drug dealer. He is a victim of a miscarriage of justice, having made a silly mistake because he is an orphan – not the same thing at all.  Secondly, Lower Loxley has not lost its alcohol licence. It is currently being looked after for safe-keeping by Borchester District Council, which again is quite different.
Thirdly, we have not lost a lot of valuable bookings. The fact is, a number of clients have respectfully decided to withdraw, leaving me the time I need to fret about my son.
And lastly, the fuss about the Hallowe’en event was completely overblown. If anyone was upset, it was Roy Tucker’s fault. He would terrify anyone, bearing down on families with his clipboard, bullying them into asking for refunds. In what universe is it any of his business? Just because he’s never forgiven me for dumping him after our… well, anyway. And in any case Geraldine, who no longer works for Lower Loxley, was responsible for booking the act. 
I do hope this clarifies the situation and would like to offer your readers a warm welcome to our legendary Deck the Hall festive events. And if anyone publishes more lies about my family or my business, they will soon find out that ‘Attack of the Mummy’ was a walk in the park compared to the fright they will get from my lawyers.
Yours sincerely
Elizabeth Pargetter    

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Hallowe’en horror at Lower Loxley 

Cllr Grundy: 'It was
like this, but more scary.'
Parish Councillor Emma Grundy has reported Lower Loxley to Borchester Trading Standards Office for putting on a Hallowe’en event that she said was ‘too scary’.
‘We were expecting Frightful Family Fun at Spookylicious Gardens, with face-painting and marshmallows for the kiddies and that,’ said Cllr Grundy. ‘It was all fine when we arrived. There were some ghastly old goblins jumping out from behind bushes making terrible noises, but my lot are used to that, living with my grandfather-in-law Joe and his leaky bowel. 
‘But it was a different story at the Attack of the Mummy on the Treetop Walk. We all watched as the mummy rose out of the coffin and wrapped the archaeologist in bandages. But when he pushed him off the walk and he was just hanging there, with blood gushing from his eyes… it was disgusting. My George had to play three games of  Resident Evil 7 Biohazard to calm himself down.’ 
Lower Loxley assistant manager Geraldine (surname? Ed) said she was sorry if guests were upset and offered a full refund to anyone who requested one. 
But Cllr Grundy said this was inadequate. ‘If Elizabeth Pargetter thinks she can fob us off with cash she can think again,’ she said. ‘No amount can make up for what my kiddies have been through. Unless it’s enough to put a deposit on a new house. That would do it.’  
Roy Tucker, who attended the event with his small daughter and is a former manager at Lower Loxley, said it was a ‘health and safety nightmare’.
‘Luckily I always keep a hi-vis jacket in the Skoda, so I popped it on and used my marshalling skills with the crowd,’ he said. ‘Otherwise it could have got very ugly in the car park.’   

Ambridge Women’s Institute: an apology

Unfortunately, due to a mix-up on the subs’ desk, last week’s issue contained a number of serious errors. Reports on Bridge Farm’s acquisition of a new dairy herd, and Brookfield’s plans to feed bakery waste to their beef cattle, were confused with details of the Women’s Institute’s Cake-a-Thon for BBC Children in Need. 
We sincerely apologise for:
• describing the W.I. membership as a large number of old cows, some of them into their 12th lactation
• suggesting that the W.I. will be baking a mountain of mouldy bread, stale sponges and smashed Bourbons for their charity sale
• implying that WI members are not prone to mastitis but need to have their udders felt often, especially in winter
• reporting that W.I. baked goods are only fit for consumption when mixed with chopped straw and high-protein silage.
To recognise the offence and embarrassment caused, we are organising our own Children in Need event. The reporters responsible for the mix-up will be placed in stocks on the village green to allow W.I. members, led by Mrs Jill Archer, to throw flapjacks at them. 

Method in her Chaucer madness

Rehearsals for the Ambridge production of The Canterbury Tales started this week, and director/auteur Lynda Snell says her cast will be ‘fully immersed’ in the atmosphere of medieval England.
 ‘I wanted the actors to feel what it is to be cold and hungry, sitting on a rough stone floor in half-darkness, surrounded by dirt, vermin and farm animals – so where better to start our journey than Brookfield?’ she said.  ‘Unfortunately, there were too many of us to fit in the kitchen, so we had to use the barn instead. But Ruth Archer has said she’ll take her Chaucer hat off long enough to run the Hoover over the sitting room for our next rehearsal.’ 

Coffee break with… ‘Mr Lee’

 In our occasional series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we catch up with much-loved Ambridge martial arts instructor ‘Mr Lee’.

Q Ambridge parents say you’re great with children. What’s your secret?
A I believe that children are our future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way…

Q But how do you manage when children display challenging behaviour in class?
A It’s all about getting them to look for the hero inside themselves,  until they find the key to their lives.

Q How do you motivate children to do their best?
A I ask them: ‘What have you done today to make yourself proud?’

Q And finally, do your friends ever call you Bruce?
A No. Are we done here? 

Borsetshire Rural Cinema

Showing this week: a side-splitting comedy special: 

Dumb & Dumber’s Excellent Adventure 

Join smooth-talking boarding school twit Ruairi (Dumb) and his bestie, nice-but-gullible Ben (Dumber) on their wild and wacky night-ride in various unroadworthy farm vehicles, as they practise doughnuts, give it a dab of oppo and cane the dips at Leeders, stopping only to hit badgers and wriggle out of a proper wigging from Will the gamekeeper.  (Running time 90 mins: feels like 3 hours). 

What the critics say:
“Check your common sense at the door and you’ll soon be ‘Ruairi’ with laughter and ‘Bent’ double with giggles at this no-brainer of a cinema delight.” Tristram Hawkshaw, Borchester Echo.