Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ed advises, Rob complains and Lynda ponders: a ram-packed week in Ambridge

Tony’s a star at-tract-ion! (Rubbish headline. Ed)

Tony Archer of Bridge Farm, Ambridge, is set to achieve a lifetime’s ambition next month by starring in his favourite magazine.
‘When I bought my latest classic tractor – a cute little Fordson Major, the first model I ever drove – I emailed Tractor Talk and sent some pictures,’ said Mr Archer. ‘I was amazed when they rang and said they wanted us to be their cover story. My baby grandson Jack was asleep on my lap at the time, and I nearly dropped him!’
The editor of Tractor Talk, Axel Diff-Locke, said the magazine was ‘very excited’ by Mr Archer’s story. ‘Tony’s son lost his life on a vintage tractor, and the family’s facing £30,000 of legal bills, but he can’t wait to get his new Fordson into the workshop,’ he said. ‘Tony’s a man who’s got his priorities right. We’re proud to have him on the cover.’

Grundy wants his wisdom to go viral 

Local farm worker Ed Grundy is set to take the world of motivational speaking by storm as he records the first of his inspirational sales talks on video this week.
‘It’s all the idea of my mate Alice Carter,’ said a bemused but delighted Mr Grundy of Grange Farm. ‘She said the business advice I gave her was so cool I should do a TED Talk. I said didn’t she mean ED Talk, and she said that was even more brilliant and bought me another pint.
‘Anyway, we’re going to meet up next week and go through my lines. It’s simple stuff I’ve picked up in my contracting work, like “People have a relationship with people, not with technology” and “Don’t take leaflets round Borchester Market, you’ll only drop them in the slurry".'
Mr Grundy said the first of his ED Talks would be shown on EweTube (are you sure? Ed. No, not that Ed. Editor) and the whole family was looking forward to it. ‘My wife Emma is fine with Alice taking so much interest in me,’ he said. ‘Yeah, totally fine. Fine.’

Ambridge Christmas show: have your say!

Ambridge impresario Lynda Snell and her assistant director Kate Madikane are inviting Ambridge Observer readers to vote on which show they should stage this Christmas. ‘Inevitably, with a new partnership, there is a certain amount of creative tension, which in this case has led to a temporary impasse,’ said Mrs Snell. ‘We have decided on a traditional pantomime with a modern twist, but which one?’
Mrs Snell and Ms Madikane have come up with a shortlist of five (below). Cast your vote to have the final say!

• Mother Goose. This hilarious tale features knockabout comedy from two foolish brothers, and a grumpy grandmother in the title role, who refuses to let her granddaughter have any of her golden flapjacks because she has fallen in love with one of the brothers.

• Aladdin. A young man meets a kind genie who grants two of his wishes – for smart clothes and magic photographs that make him look handsome. But she cannot grant his last wish – for true love – because she is not a miracle-worker.

• Sleeping Beauty. A lovely young princess sets up a holistic spa but pricks her finger on a yurt pole and falls asleep for 100 years, much to the annoyance of her father Baron Hard-Up, as sadly no prince arrives to wake her.

• Babes in the Wood. Two little boys, Henry and Jack, are in danger from the Demon King after they escape from his castle. But they are kept safe by their comedy uncles Tom and Johnny and their mother’s magic cheese.

• Hansel and Gretel. As their mother is too busy to look after them, Hansel leads Gretel into the wood, where their grandmother has made a cottage out of flapjacks. The twins go inside and eat so much they cannot get out and have to be rescued by Iftikar the Maths Magician.

Local vet faces hunting backlash

Our interview last week with vet Alistair Lloyd has unleashed a storm of protest from the anti-hunting lobby.
In the article, Mr Lloyd revealed he is selling his veterinary practice partly to fund his wife’s ambition to become joint master of the South Borsetshire Hunt.
But animal welfare campaigners have accused him of ‘rank hypocrisy’, and members of Borsetshire against Hunting (BAH) gathered outside his surgery at The Stables, Ambridge, this week to protest.
‘How can someone whose career is about saving animals help finance a sport that’s all about killing them?’ said a spokesperson. ‘The law makes no difference; we all know foxes still get killed. Lloyd should be ashamed of himself.’
BAH are urging pet owners to boycott Mr Lloyd’s new employer, Lovell James of Felpersham, in a bid to stop the sale going ahead.
Mr Lloyd was unavailable for comment but his wife, livery stables owner Shula Hebden Lloyd, said the protest was ‘embarrassing and unnecessary’.
‘Our current Master, Oliver, warned me there was a downside to the position but I never expected anything like this,’ she said. ‘No wonder he’s off to Tuscany. Now, would you get out of the way please; my mother is trying to get through with a game pie and a batch of flapjacks.’

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I really must complain about falling standards in Ambridge’s retail outlets. This week I have experienced appalling service in The Bull, where it seemed no one wanted to take my order for a pint and a roast dinner, even though I attempted to be public-spirited by stepping into an ugly row between the Fairbrother clowns. I was pointedly ignored in the village shop, and in the Abridge Tea Room, where I am forced to spend three hours at a time with Myson Gideon, my tea usually arrives cold, or not at all. 
As you may know I am recovering from surgery and my mother has gone home to Hampshire. It seems Ambridge is showing its true, nasty colours at last, just like the Archer family and their…


• Mauve dress; maternity tops; “Your Guide to a Home Birth”, “50 ways with Toad in the Hole”; Little Miss Giggly mug; wedding ring; ball and chain. Free to anyone who will take them away. Contact Helen Archer, Bridge Farm.
• Vintage mangle. Family heirloom. Would benefit from upcycling. Reluctant sale to pay vets’ fees for our Granddad’s dear old pony. £200. Contact Eddie Grundy, Grange Farm.
• Portrait photographer wanted. Must understand mature women’s skin tone, flattering lighting and tasteful poses that do not need stars to be stuck on afterwards. Contact Susan Carter, Ambridge View.    

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Rob loiters, Bert rhymes, Shula dreams and Lynda finds a new muse: an eventful week in Ambridge

Police warn of ‘scary clown’ craze

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) has asked residents to be vigilant following reports of ‘sinister clowns’ seen in and around Ambridge this week.
‘So far, these incidents have had an innocent explanation, but you can’t be too careful,’ he said. ‘Someone reported a clown in a comedy car with a ridiculous horn, but it turned out to be Toby Fairbrother.
‘And there was a sighting of a ‘robot-like’ figure with terrifying sticky-up hair, but on closer inspection this was Roy Tucker, who’d overdone the hair gel and was wearing some stiff new chinos, which were chafing and making him walk funny.
‘Most disturbing were the reports of a couple – a man with an older woman – who spent some time loitering on the Green. Witnesses said the man looked grim-faced and determined, as if he were plotting a malicious prank. And the woman was egging him on.
‘I was able to approach them and realised it was Rob Titchener and his mother Ursula. I asked Mrs Titchener to remove her fright wig and red nose, but she said she’d just been to Fabrice and had a slight cold. It was all rather embarrassing, especially after our row at the cricket last week. Mind how you go now…’

Close call for renowned critic

A performance of ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ by Felpersham Light Opera Society was interrupted last week as theatre critic Tristram Hawkshaw was taken ill.
Mr Hawkshaw was rushed to Borchester General Hospital by ambulance, but was discharged after tests.
‘It ruined a delightful evening,’ said Mr Hawkshaw, who is recovering at home. ‘Dear Jean Harvey and I had enjoyed a light pre-theatre supper and were looking forward to our pink gins in the interval, when I made the disastrous error of checking my phone. That woman Lynda Snell had texted me – texted me! – with the news that she is to direct an Ambridge Christmas show, and has recruited Kate Madikane as her assistant.
‘Suddenly everything went black,’ said Mr Hawkshaw. ‘Memories of last year’s ‘Calendar Girls’ came flooding back and I felt as if I were having a heart attack. The thought of another evening in that draughty hall, subjected to Mrs Snell’s theatrical abominations, was too much.’
However, Mr Hawkshaw said doctors had diagnosed anxiety and that, with counselling, he should be fit enough to review the Ambridge production later this year. ‘To quote dear Dame Judi, “The show must go on, darling”,’ he said.

Service engineers threaten fines for no-shows

Borsetshire’s largest domestic appliance company has said it will introduce penalty charges for appointments that are cancelled without notice.
‘Customers don’t seem to realise that call-outs to rural locations cost time and money,’ said a spokesperson for ‘This week for example, our engineer drove all the way from Smethwick to Honeysuckle Cottage, Ambridge, to look at a washing machine. When he knocked at the door there was no answer, so he peered through the kitchen window and waved his spanner set at the two gentlemen inside. They clearly did not want to be disturbed as there was a touching scene of reconciliation going on. But determined not to leave customers with a poorly-draining drum, our engineer persisted and one of the gentlemen came to the door. But he was unable to gain entrance as the other gentleman shouted: “Ian, come back darling – I’ve fired up the hot tub! Let’s party!’ and the door was shut in his face.
‘We have no wish to intrude on customers’ private lives but that call was a write-off,’ said the spokesperson. ‘Love is all very well, but it won’t keep our engineers in diesel.’

‘I’m not bitter’ – Borsetshire laureate

Local poet Bert Fry has denied that he harbours any resentment after being overlooked for the Nobel Prize for Literature this week.
‘I send Mr Dylan hearty congratulations and I want to set the record straight in the best way I know how – in rhyme,’ he said. Thank you for these gracious lines, Bert!

When they announced the Nobel Prize
For Literature, I was surprised
When mates said: ‘Bert Fry, you were robbed –
It never should have gone to Bob!’
For while I find my verse fulfillin’
I’m not a patch on Mr Dylan!
I’m happy in my bungalow;
This stone stopped rolling long ago.
And if my odes make someone’s day
I could not wish for higher praise.
The vicar says, for what it’s worth,
We shouldn’t seek reward on earth.
My prize awaits in Heaven above,
When I’ll see again my own true love.

Coffee break with… Alistair Lloyd

 This week, in our series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we book an appointment with local vet Alistair Lloyd.

Q Do you specialise as a vet, or are you more of a GP?

A As a single-vet practice, you have to be an expert on every creature you might meet, from cows to cockatiels! My practice nurse Denise deals with some of the small animal work, but most days you’ll find me on a farm somewhere. And yes, quite often I’ll have an arm up a cow’s backside! It all helps pay the bills.

Q What about more exotic animals? Are there many of those locally?

A Oh yes – only this week, for instance, I had to look after a llama with toothache and a bad spitting habit. And a squirrel fell off a bird table. That was nasty. There are ferrets, the local pub has a peacock, and there’s a rumour that Barry Simmons keeps a bearded dragon – but if so, it’s had no problems so far.

Q Is it difficult being a one-person practice?

A Yes, very. My wife Shula tells me she can’t remember the last time I had a day off. In fact, between you, me and the gatepost, I’m considering an offer for the practice. Becoming an employee rather than a sole practitioner. There’s a lot to be said for it: proper holidays, a pension, and a nice white coat with my name embroidered on it. Shula’s always too busy to do that sort of thing for me.

Q What do you do to relax?

A I enjoy cricket, though I’m a bit past it now. And we’re very horsey – my wife loves hunting. In fact, it’s her dream to become a joint master of the South Borsetshire, so if I did sell the practice, the cash would come in very handy. Anyway, must dash – got to do some AI over at Penny Hassett. Now, where did I put that bull semen? There’s only milk left in this fridge. Oh God, not again! Pass me your coffee mug, would you?  

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Rob rebuffed (again), an awkward birthday and Kate’s beauty tips: a sweet ‘n’ sour week in Ambridge

Sour note mars sweet victory against Darrington

Ambridge won the last match of the season on Sunday – a rescheduled meeting with old adversaries Darrington – despite an embarrassing public row with Rob Titchener, the team’s leading player earlier in the summer.
‘Rob turned up ready to play, but it was pretty obvious no one on the team was expecting him,’ said one witness. ‘Captain Harrison Burns told him in no uncertain terms he wasn’t wanted but he hung around, saying Ambridge was lucky to have him.
‘In the end, we heard slow hand-clapping coming from the pavilion and Rob stormed out – don’t know what happened after that as we legged it.’
Contacted for a comment, Mr Titchener said it was a misunderstanding. ‘It was handbags at dawn – and Adam Macy should know all about handbags,’ he said. ‘I only joined that shabby team out of charity anyway. Let’s see how that pathetic collection of schoolboys and geriatrics gets on without me.’
Harrison Burns said he was ‘delighted’ with the victory, which concluded a lacklustre season for the Ambridge First XI. ‘I stopped the team sledging, so we’d win fair and square,’ he said. ‘And young Johnny Phillips said he could never see the point of it when there wasn’t any snow.’ (Surely some mistake? Ed)

Arable farmers demand refund after ‘pathetic’ presentation

Members of Borsetshire’s Arable Forum are up in arms after paying to attend a seminar they said was a ‘waste of time and money’.
Local start-up Fly-by-Night Drone Technology is under fire after promising the group ‘crucial insights and a head-start in innovative technology to save costs and improve efficiency.’
‘It was £20 each for a talk, a go with a drone and a hot fork supper,’ said one disappointed delegate. ‘Sounded like a good night out. But as soon as their saleswoman fired up her PowerPoint people started to leave. We were there to see spreadsheets and cost-benefit analysis, not gifs of the Kardashians and kittens playing the piano. It was an insult.’
A spokesperson for the firm apologised for the incident. ‘Alice Carter, our executive vice-president (Borsetshire), is new in her role and very eager to please,’ he said. ‘Her father, Brian Aldridge, who is a prominent local farmer, has a soft spot for videos of romping puppies and she thought something similar might ‘warm up’ the audience. This was clearly a misreading of the situation. Mrs Carter is undergoing further training and we are confident this will not happen again.’

Local prof joins Nuffield panel

Ambridge resident Jim Lloyd has been invited to join the panel of judges for the prestigious Nuffield farming scholarship scheme, after he was overheard interviewing candidate Tom Archer in The Bull last week.
‘It was a bit of fun really,’ said modest ‘Prof’ Lloyd. ‘Johnny Phillips arranged for us to give Tom a mock interview, to prepare him. I’d had some experience examining PhD students, but I was surprised to find my name had somehow been forwarded to the Nuffield team.”
Mr Lloyd said that he would be bringing a unique classical and historical perspective to interviewing candidates.
‘They said they were particularly impressed with my ‘killer question’, he said. ‘It was: Quantus erat in foro Romae organicum cibum infantem?’

From the messageboards

This week, we drop in on the AmMums forum to see what’s got the local online community talking…

• Hi mums, it’s Helen checking back in – so good to be allowed to wander freely about the internet again! I just wanted us to spare a thought for young mums like my friend Kaz in the Mother and Baby Unit. Do you know, their children hardly ever get to eat fresh organic produce? When I went to visit Kaz last week I dropped a veg box off with her mum first and whipped up a quick veggie frittata for Courtney and Paige. They loved it, and Kaz’s mum said the next time she had £25 to spare she would definitely order one. Isn’t that nice?
• That’s great news Helen, and well done you for getting kids to eat veg – I never managed it with my lot, unless you count baked beans and oven chips! Geordielass.
 • Hello mums, I had to share as I feel so awful about my birthday. The family had arranged a special tea for me but I ruined it because my granddaughter invited her boyfriend, a ghastly unreliable chap whose family have always meant trouble for the Archers. Anyway, I put my foot down and now everyone thinks my outburst was a sign of dementia. Was I really so wrong? GrannyJill
• Well to be honest Jill, it was a bit awkward, after we’d gone to all the trouble with the cake and sandwiches and that. Say what you like about Toby Fairbrother, but he’s always handy with the leftovers. And you never had a problem with that nice Matthew. GeordieLass
Matthew never humiliated me over chutney at the Flower & Produce Show. And he wasn’t related to my husband’s saintly first wife. But frankly Ruth I think it’s Pip you should be giving a good telling-off, not me. GrannyJill
Now now you two, you’re so lucky to be able to have family parties! My son Robert can only see his son Gideon once a week, and this week his so-called mother wouldn’t let him rearrange his visit, even though Rob was going into hospital to repair the injury she caused!
Bold as brass, she was! Can you believe it? GrandmaUrsula
Helen’s son is called Jack, and it’s about time she put you in your place, you old witch. We’ve told you before, you’re banned from this board, just like my Ed and David Archer banned Rob from the pub! MummyEmma
• Oh yes, Emma – that common girl Rob got to babysit. I’d expect nothing better from you.
But perhaps there are other mothers on here who have some sympathy with me. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to settle Robert’s bowels after the operation to reverse his colostomy. GrandmaUrsula
• It’s gonna take you a long, long time, because your Robert is full of s… (this thread has been closed. MummyModerator).

5 top beauty tips for Autumn 

Kate Madikane of Spiritual Home, who is famous for her tact and sensitivity with clients, shares her secrets:

• For gentlemen, there’s nothing like an eyebrow-threading and deep moisturising treatment. As I said to Neil Carter only this week: ‘You’re chairman of the Parish Council, you can’t go round looking like a badger’s backside.’
• My therapists can make you feel like a new woman, even if you’re really old, like over 50. That’s what I told Susan Carter, though she didn’t seem too keen for some reason.
• Juice cleanses are great, but need supervised care. You can’t just tip the veg cabinet of your fridge in a blender and expect it to work miracles. You need to pay me at least £50 to do that for you.
• Unblocking your chi gives you a wonderful energy boost. I offered to do it for my ex Roy this week, but he said he’d got used to doing it on his own. Sad, really.
• Plastic surgeons are dreadful. I say to my ladies, instead of spending all that money going to London for a toxic operation, why not spend it all at Spiritual Home instead? You’ll be broke, but at least you’ll still be able to smile afterwards!