Sunday, 28 April 2019

Stop press: bunting found!

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has claimed the appearance of a remnant of tattered bunting brings police a step closer to unveiling the identity of the thief, codenamed ‘H’ (for Haberdashery).
‘Forensic investigations (i.e. asking my wife) have established the remnant does indeed belong to the consignment of high-grade bunting that disappeared from the village green exactly four years ago,’ he told a packed press briefing.
‘A crack team is conducting a fingertip search of the village, fanning out from the shop, where the bunting was found hanging on the door handle. If we don’t find any fingertips (oh dear, Ed) we’ll just ask people if they saw anyone acting suspiciously. We've already eliminated Mia Grundy from our enquiries. She was only hanging round the shop, counting her coins to see if she had enough money for bread and waiting to take Poppy to the hairdresser.
‘We assume this is ‘H’s attempt to taunt the police and lure us into a firefight on the village green,’ said PC Burns. ‘Let me warn H right now: we have a speedwatch gun and we aren’t afraid to use it.’

Borsetshire European Election candidates revealed

In a surprise move, a number of Ambridge residents have announced they will be standing as candidates in next month’s European Parliament elections. We asked them to sum up their manifestos:

Shula Hebden Lloyd (Pity Party)

I’m standing for all those women of a certain age who feel invisible and undervalued, and who are looking for a fresh purpose in life. I don’t know what my manifesto is yet, but I expect God will be in there somewhere. Although I do keep changing my mind on that.

Freddie Pargetter (Law Reform Party)

If elected I plan to draw attention to the terrible injustices done to young heirs who are sent to jail for drug offences that really weren’t all that serious and then find people aren’t very nice to them and they can’t find a job. My campaign slogan is: It’s so UNFAIR! I’m sure it’s a whiner (surely, winner? Ed).

Jack (Jazzer) McCreary (Scottish Nationalist Party)

Ever since ma agent Jim Lloyd wrote my CV there’s nae limit to what I can dae!
If Tom Archer disnae want ma problem-solving skills and ability to step back and reassess a changing business situation, I’ll be off to Brussels. When it comes to sprouts I know my onions, if ye get ma meaning!

Russell Jones (Brexart Party)

With my deep artistic sensibilities and my ability to reach out to young people, I’m confident I could improve public engagement with the institutution of the European Parliament. I already have an Italian coffee maker and I make a tasty pain perdu so I’m sure I’ll fit right in.

Ambridge welcomes ‘no-fault divorce’ laws

The prospect of being able to end a marriage without ascribing blame to either partner has been welcomed by Ambridge residents.
‘It’a bit late for me, as my decree absolute came through this week,’ said Shula Hebden Lloyd. ‘But in retrospect it would have been better to avoid all that unpleasantness with Lavinia Rafferty’s Schnauzer.’ 
‘This is good news,’ said a newly married Ambridge woman who preferred to remain anonymous. ‘As a successful entrepreneur, I know it’s important to mitigate risk. So I’ve been compiling a file of unreasonable behaviour just in case – parents-in-law only having soup and a roll for lunch; grandmother-in-law using her cat as an offensive weapon; husband expecting you to have a self-catering honeymoon – that kind of thing. But this change means I can take off whenever I like, no hard feelings and all that. In fact, I’ve got a train to catch; my ex Trev is waiting for me with a scented candle and a footrub.’

Snell ponders Christmas production

Ambridge impresario Lynda Snell says current events in the village have inspired her to think ahead to this year’s pantomime.
‘I know I said the muse has drained my well dry, but something in my water (sorry? Ed) tells me there is a searing drama playing out in this village that is crying out to be reflected on the stage,’ she said. ‘I refer of course to a contemporary reworking of Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary. This morality tale of a shallow, skittish woman who marries a decent if dull chap, then decides she hates village life, has various unsuitable liaisons and runs up huge debts, seems at once timeless and highly relevant.’  

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Russ gets a job and Shula writes to God: Happy Easter from the Ambridge Observer!

Stately home readies gallery relaunch

Lower Loxley is planning to rehang its art exhibition in a bid to attract visitors who are interested in culture, after its attempt to appeal to young families failed spectacularly at Hallowe’en.
Owner Elizabeth Pargetter, who has yet to regain Lower Loxley’s alcohol licence, has appointed artist and teacher Russell Burne Jones (are you sure? Ed) as manager of the gallery, taking over from veteran Lewis Carmichael. 
‘I’m sure Russ will bring a fresh perspective to the collection,’ said Mrs Pargetter. ‘He has a particular affinity with young artists, as many of the girls in his A-level classes at Borchester College will confirm. And his ideas about track lighting are simply transformational.’
Mr Jones said he was ‘excited’ about his new role. ‘Of course, one has to tread softly when inheriting a setting of such cultural significance,’ he said. ‘But I can tell you, now, those ghastly old oils of the Pargetters will have to go. I plan to paint over them with some resonant and deeply contemporary works of my own in mixed media.’ 

Don’t do dodgy chemical deals, farmers warned

Police are warning Borsetshire farmers against buying pesticides or insecticides unless they know they have been legally sourced and imported. 
‘We have evidence that the supply of illegal farm chemicals is spreading through the county,’ said Detective Constable Anna Key. ‘The people who import these products are often connected to organised crime networks that deal in illegal drugs and people trafficking.’
DC Key said the networks rely on recruiting cash-strapped farm workers to deliver shipments for them but warned how risky this can be.
‘Let me make it clear,’ she said. ‘You might think you can make some easy cash by driving a few drums of chemicals about. But these are seriously bad people and you wouldn’t want anyone you know to get mixed up with them.’

From the vicarage fireside

The Revd Alan Franks writes: Hullo! And a very happy Easter to you all. I’m afraid I had to spread myself thinly over the four parishes on Good Friday, so I must apologise if you only caught a glimpse of the hem of my cassock and a whiff of hot cross buns.
We Christians think of Easter as the season for the glorious affirmation of our faith, but we should remember there may be those in our flock who are wrestling with a spiritual crisis. A parishioner of mine is currently in this dark place, and to help her reflect, I suggested she write a letter to God. This she did, and I’m humbled to say she has allowed me to reproduce it here, in the hope that it may help someone else. 
And as you know, I’m always here to talk through your dilemmas and crises of conscience, no matter how inconvenient or tedious.

Dear God,
I’m afraid I’m having to write to You because, like so many men in my life, You’ve turned out to be a terrible disappointment. (Of course, You may be a woman, but I don’t really have the imagination to explore that).
I was hoping You might provide me with some kind of purpose in my life, after all the praying I’ve done, and cleaning up the churchyard and handing out the hymn books and everything. For example, I wanted to sublimate my spirit in art, but it turns out I can’t even draw. How unfair is that?
So I’ve decided to withdraw my labour for a while, God. I hope You’ll notice that I’m not at services and You’ll realise You should have been nicer to me, after all I’ve done for You.
Goodbye for now, God. 
Yours not very faithfully, 
Shula (Wasn’t this supposed to be anonymous? Ed.)

From the message boards

This week we drop in on the Ambridge Teen Forum, to see what the youngsters are chatting about online:

• Hi guys! Anyone know any jobs going? I’ll do anything, as long as it’s not, like, really dull or badly paid. Freddie
• Freddie, mate, we’ve been through this. You can work at The Stables or in the falconry at Lower Loxley. You’re good with the birds! Johnny 
• Not as good as I am! You know the Birmingham girls staying at Spiritual Home? Ben and I had a wicked time teaching one of them how to shoot an air rifle. She was really into me – till Chris Carter came over and went off on one about health and safety. Ruairi 
• Hi guysNew on here – staying in a stinky tent at Spiritual Home and looking for some fun. Anyone know a guy called Chris? He’s well peng and I told him I’m, like, nearly 17… Sadia
• Hey Sadia, remember us? Me and Ben can give you some more lessons if you like. Maybe if you brought some friends…? Ruairi
• Nah, you’re alright, there’s lads back home can teach me about guns. I’m more into the guns that guy Chris had, get me? Sadia
• Back to me, guys: A job with my family won’t look good on my CV. I’ve got to get something to impress my offender manager. Even creepy Russ is beginning to see how important my needs are. Help me out, guys – you OWE me!
• Shut up Freddie! Everyone 

Borsetshire Community Cinema

Showing this week: Look Back in Ambridge

In a big-screen adaptation of the gritty domestic drama, bewildered Tom and ambitious Natasha, his new wife, are living in a cramped flat above a village shop. Tom runs a pig business with his friend Jazzer while Natasha obsesses about bed linen. Frustration and anger get the better of them both, as Natasha accuses Tom of putting Jazzer and his family above her, and even when he sacks Jazzer she isn’t satisfied. Meanwhile he accuses her of being cold and heartless and spending too much time on the phone to her ex, Trev. Will Tom be able to sweep their differences under the carpet, as his dad advises? Or will Natasha’s taunting about Tom’s childhood trauma – the death of his elder brother John – provoke Tom into an outpouring of rage from which they can never recover? (Warning: contains upsetting scenes of overcooked beef tournedos and wilted broccoli).  

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Tom shocks his mum, Leonard comes clean and a tough week for Freddie

Pig row causes stink at Bridge Farm

One of Ambridge’s leading farming families has been ripped apart over plans to stop pig production at Bridge Farm.
‘I don’t know how Tom can be thinking of selling the pigs when they’re a living memorial to our late son John,’ said Mrs Pat Archer. ‘I can see why Tom’s new wife Natasha might want us to modernise, but I feel she’s stabbing me in the heart, trampling over our family history in those sharp little stilettos.’
But Tom Archer defended his decision to sell off the pig herd to concentrate on retailing. 
‘Natasha’s such a great businesswoman,’ he said. ‘She reminded me that successful marketing is all about selling the sizzle, not the sausage. So I’m going to get rid of the pigs, which we won’t need to provide sausages any more, and sell sizzles instead. I’m not exactly sure where you source sizzles from, but Natasha says she can get them on her credit card. You can print them off the internet as well. It’s really cool apparently.’
Stop press: A herd of pigs has escaped from Bridge Farm and was last seen making its way to the new mud chamber at Spiritual Home. Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) said he suspected sabotage as the gate to the pigs’ field had been left open.
‘I’m going to interview Jazzer McCreary as I understand he’s about to lose his job as pigman at Bridge Farm and there may be some resentment there,’ he said.
Contacted by the Ambridge Observer, Mr McCreary denied involvement. ‘I didnae leave the gate open, but if my girls have voted with their trotters and set up hame elsewhere I wouldnae blame them,’ he said. ‘Ever since Tom Archer got hisself hitched to that Natasha he’s danced to her tune and lost the wee bit sense he wa’ born wi’.’
Kate Madikane, owner of Spiritual Home, said she was ‘shocked’ to find the pigs wallowing in the mud chamber, which is a major new investment for guests at her holistic spa.
‘To be honest, I didn’t notice at first as we’re hosting a group of disadvantaged youngsters from Birmingham and I just thought they were trying out the facilities,’ she said. ‘But when PC Burns pointed out they were actually Tom Archer’s pigs, I was horrified.’  

TV Preview: Last Tango in Ambridge

In this week’s episode of the gentle domestic sitcom, Jill’s new love Leonard has to confess he can’t really paint watercolours and only told Jill he was a bit of an artist to impress her. Meanwhile, Jill’s troubled daughter Shula can’t bring herself to deliver a sermon at young Rosie Archer’s christening because she’s assailed with self-doubt about the break-up of her marriage. Luckily, kindly old atheist Jim Lloyd is on hand at Grey Gables with praise for her newfound integrity and just a hint of ‘I told you so’ when Shula confesses her faith may be wavering.
With Shula’s dream of an art installation at St Stephen’s dashed, due to Leonard’s incompetence, will she find peace on retreat at the Cistercian abbey just outside Felpersham, or will she revert to type and set her cap at the nearest available man – Jakob the enigmatic but highly skilled (and half-Swedish) equine vet?

The Secret Diary of Freddie Pargetter, aged 191/2


A horrid day. Kate blanked me at Rosie’s christening because she blames me for making Noli sick with the pill I gave her. It wasn’t my fault; I told her not to take the whole thing. No one can stand Kate, but now there’s someone everyone hates more than her – ME. It’s so unfair!


A horrid day. I told Aunty Shula I don’t want to go on a ‘thinking skills’ course, because, duh, I THINK I never want to see anyone from the Young Offenders’ ever again. And there’s a nice girl at The Stables but she’s not going to want to go out with an ex-convict, is she? It’s so unfair! Then I went out for a drink with Johnny and I kept getting texts from Mum and Bunny Boy Russ, asking where I was. How dare they CARE about me? It’s so UNFAIR!


A horrid day. Lily gave me a good talking-to and I realised I’ve probably been a bit mean to Mum. She’s had a hard time – though not as hard as me of course – and I should be more sympathetic and help her get better. Lily cried, and I know she’s finding it tough – but not as tough as me. I’m sorry for her, but I told her I’m NEVER going to be nice to that creep Russ, who’s oozing round everyone like a patchouli-scented oil slick.  


A horrid day. I went to see Uncle Kenton to ask if he had any work. He was quite batey and said I wasn’t the only one having a hard time. I mean, how dare he? I was the one in PRISON, not him! It’s so unfair!
Then I went to apologise to Harrison Burns, which I thought was jolly manly of me, and he was quite nice about it. So I went to see Fallon at the Tea Room because Harrison said Tyler was leaving and there might be a job for me. I apologised to her too. Honestly, people don’t seem to realise how tiring it is, saying sorry all the time. But then she said she didn’t want me working in the café, even though I promised I wouldn’t make any hash brownies. Honestly, some people have no sense of humour. I told her, she OWES me, because her dad started me off on my so-called life of crime by selling me drugs when I was 14. She went ballistic. But why is Jailbird Uncle Wayne now making fancy sandwiches in The Bull, when Fallon won’t even let me make a cup of tea in her poxy café? Nobody wants me to be rehabilitated and resume my place at the top of the social heirarchy, as I deserve. It’s so unFAIR!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Special edition! Academic Archers: Ambridge reacts

Ambridge was thrown into turmoil this weekend as academics gathered at the University of Sheffield to reveal new research into every aspect of village life.
'We don't know why they call it 'Academic Archers' when it should be 'Academic Grundys', said Eddie Grundy. 'Now there's two words you don't see together very often.'
'I do hope they haven't been delving too deeply,' said Jennifer Aldridge. 'Brian and I don't need the whole world to know we're down to our last tagine. And the least said about Kate, the better.'
The Ambridge Observer attended the event and we exclusively report here on selected highlights that got local residents talking:

Ambridge's senior citizens are 'outraged' by the suggestion that close family ties and a supportive village environment are responsible for their remarkable longevity. Dr Sara Long of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has established that several residents in their 80s and 90s are much more independent and active than many of their peers elsewhere.
"Family support? What nonsense. It's bile and spite that keep me going,' said Mrs Peggy Woolley.'There's nothing like cutting your son out of your will or sacking your cleaner without notice to make you feel young again.'
'I put it down to passionate love-making with my Leonard,' said Mrs Jill Archer. 'That, and plenty of passive-aggressive interactions with my nearest and dearest.'
'I keeps going by cadging pints of Shires at The Bull and getting Clarrie to wait on me hand and foot – and the other foot if I've got a corn,' said Joe Grundy.
'Age is just a number, and I'm not very good at numbers, being a Classics man,' said Prof Jim Lloyd. 'No wonder I can't get the hang of the Parish Council finances.'

Lynda Snell said she would be seeking legal advice after hearing that an actor called Carole Boyd was impersonating her at the event. 'Of course, when you are in my position you must expect it,' she said. 'Who would not wish to emulate the glamour, the joie de vivre and the sheer white heat of creativity that radiates from my person? But this must be nipped in the bud before it becomes an unhealthy obsession or, heaven forbid, a case of stalking. It's for her own good.'

Borsetshire's Police & Crime Commissioner said he was 'surprised, but delighted' to hear that Ambridge is 'over-policed', when considering the number of police officers per head of population in the area.
'I've been waiting for an excuse to redeploy PC Harrison Burns for a while now,' he said, in response to a study by Charlotte Bilby of Northumbria University. 'Once he gets his sergeant's promotion, we'll second him to Felpersham serious crime squad, though frankly with his laughable clear-up rate he'll probably struggle.'
The PCC's office added that the focus on Ambridge will now be on crime prevention, with extra window stickers for the Neighbourhood Watch and a spare set of batteries for the Speedwatch gun.

Shula Hebden Lloyd has rewritten the sermon that she failed to deliver at Rosie Archer's christening last week. 'A lady called Hannah Marije Altorf from St Mary's University sent me a copy of Iris Murdoch's The Sovereignty of Good, and it inspired me,' she said. 'My art project in St Stephen's will now focus on the 14 reasons why I was right to leave Alistair, with watercolour illustrations by Jill's friend Leonard. So empowering!'

Pat Archer describes as 'disgraceful' a suggestion from Nicola Maxfield of the Green Room School that her grandson Henry is at risk of becoming a psychopathic criminal because of the trauma of his early years. 'Henry doesn't need counselling; we can look after him perfectly well in the family,' she said. 'As long we keep him away from sharp knives and never leave him alone with Jack he'll be absolutely fine.'

Ambridge Women's Institute has adopted a proposal by Felicity Macdonald-Smith to create an 'Ambridge in 100 Objects' exhibition in the village hall. 'We're going to focus on iconic objects such as Brian Aldridge's cravat, Pip Archer's plate meter and Joe Grundy's wallet, though no one's ever seen that,' said the Chair.

A report by James Armstrong from NATO into Counterinsurgency in Ambridge has been deemed so secret that villagers haven't been allowed to see it. However, Susan Carter said she wasn't concerned. 'If anyone tries to insurge over my counter I'll whack them over the head with a copy of Borsetshire Life!' she claims.

• The St Stephen's flower arranging rota is to be reviewed after Felicity Hall of the V & A revealed that it's very much the preserve of middle class, married women. 'Looking at the research it does seem that we could widen the net,' said the Revd Alan Franks. 'But it does explain why we don't see much of Kathy Perks these days. She disappeared into the vestry with an urn full of chrysanths one day and never came out again.'

• Elizabeth Pargetter said she's 'very interested' in the idea of an exhibition highlighting the queer history of Lower Loxley, following a suggestion from Dr Cara Courage of The Tate. 'Geraldine would never have stood for it but I expect Russ would be very keen to take it on,' she said.

• In response to a report from Rob Drummond of Manchester Metropolitan University, Clarrie Grundy has denied that any members of her family have problems with their vowels. 'That's a terrible thing to say!' she said. 'Ever since the e.Coli I've been ever so careful.'