Dangerous epidemic hits Ambridge
Contaminated apple juice from Eddie Grundy’s cider press has been blamed for an outbreak of Titchener Superiosus that swept through Ambridge this week. ‘It can lie dormant for months, then suddenly flare up and cause mass delusions about a situation or individual,’ explained local vet Alistair Lloyd.
‘For instance, the whole village seems to believe that the outbreak of botulism at Berrow Farm was caused by Rob Titchener’s departure,’ said Mr Lloyd. ‘There is no reason for this, apart from Titchener telling everyone that he tried to warn them and begged for help to stop cutting corners and improve bio-security.
‘But when you hear people saying: “Rob did his best but is better off out of it; we don’t know how he stuck it for so long” you see how bad it can get.’
‘In the most severe cases, someone struck down by Titchener Superiosus might allow Titchener to assume legal responsibility for their child, take over their farm shop business and convince them they are mentally unstable – and all the time, the victim insists they are happy and grateful. It’s devastating. The sooner we can eradicate it in Ambridge, the better.’
• Have you been affected by Titchener Superiosus? If you feel the urge to start a petition to close Berrow Farm, or secretly admire Titchener’s project management skills, please call our Helpline to talk to a trained counsellor.
Local policing under scrutiny
The Borsetshire Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) defended his policing priorities this week following an emergency meeting of Farmwatch, at which locals accused him of being ‘no Dick Barton’.
‘It’s quite wrong to say that we take the disappearance of an angora goat in Penny Hassett more seriously than the widespread poaching of game and theft of a bullock herd in Ambridge,’ said PC Burns.
‘But it is our duty to protect the whole community and this week I will be focusing on the safety of young women in rural areas. I will be escorting Ms Fallon Rogers to the outdoor screening of The Shining at Arkwright Hall, to ensure she is not out in the dark by herself. Then we’ll return to Woodbine Cottage for some ‘apple bobby-ing’, if you catch my drift gentlemen! We’ve christened every room in our new home now…’ That’s enough policing. Ed.
Autumn Fiction Special: The Trials of Charlie Thomas
In chapter 3 of our serial by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero glimpses hope in the depths of despair:
Charlie Thomas looked at the scene of devastation around him in the barn. Everywhere, cows were falling over, writhing on the ground, groaning or gasping for breath. His staff and the vet team were doing what they could for the poor beasts, which was pathetically little. Outside, another fallen-stock lorry was pulling into the yard.
Oh God, how had it come to this? A few short days ago, his only problem was wondering how to tell the kindly but ancient Mike Tucker that he wasn’t up to a milking job. And now he was in Hell! His pocket throbbed as the pager, with its direct line, to Justin Elliott went off again.
He shut it off and was about to throw it across the barn when a hand stayed his arm. ‘Brian! I didn’t see you!’ he said, attempting a smile. Brian was Adam’s step-father. Was he perhaps bringing a message?
‘I had to come and see you Charlie,’ said Brian gently. ‘Naturally I’m deeply concerned about the welfare of my shares in Borchester Land – I mean, these poor creatures, of course. But my God man, what’s going on here?’
‘I can see how it looks, Brian; we don’t know what’s causing it. But I’m on top of it!’ Charlie protested, aware of how feeble his voice sounded.
‘As far as I can see you’re not on top of anything! Wait till the board hears about this!’ Brian barked, turning on his heel as another stricken milker fell at Charlie’s feet…
Two days later, food and sleep were distant memories for Charlie. The vets suspected botulism, but until it was confirmed, he didn’t know how to treat the sick cattle. And they were rapidly running out of feed. His eye fell on the banana he’d meant to eat earlier, and he thought of Adam. Strong, capable Adam. He’d know what to do… Despairing, he sank to his knees in the muddy yard and turned his face up into the falling rain. ‘Oh God, help me!’ he mouthed silently. Then all at once he heard that dear, familiar voice call his name. ‘Charlie – get up! You’re shaking!’ It was a miracle. Here was Adam, putting his arm round him, helping him into his office, making him tea. ‘Oh Adam, you’ve no idea how much I’ve missed you – I mean, missed your valuable farming input and experience,’ he sobbed. ‘I’ve felt so alone!’ ‘It’s OK Charlie. I’ve brought you some silage. Enough to last for a day or two. Everyone’s rallied round,’ said Adam. Silage! More precious than diamonds, because Adam brought it. Perhaps they could get through this together, somehow…
By Friday evening, Charlie had made the grim discovery that at last, promised to bring his nightmare to an end. Stopping only to change his filthy clothes and spritz on some ‘Eau de Herbal Ley,’ he made his way to Ambridge to share the news with Adam, as he’d promised. But he was only halfway across the green when Lynda Snell hove into view, brandishing a clipboard. ‘Thank goodness there aren’t any parts for men in Calendar Girls, Charlie Thomas, because no one wants to see you on stage, and here’s the proof!’ she screeched, sticking a petition with many signatures under his nose. ‘We need to shut down Berrow Farm right now!’
Suddenly, all the rage and frustration that had built up in Charlie in recent days exploded. ‘Someone should shut you down, you ignorant, pious old…’
‘What the …!’ Yet again, Adam had materialised as if in answer to his prayers. Charlie, stop! He’s been under a lot of stress, Lynda.’
Gently, he led Charlie away and smiled that devastating smile. ‘Come on. Come to Fallon and Harrison’s party, and then back to the cottage. You can stay over if you like. Ian’s working…’
Charlie could hardly believe his ears. Could he really be stepping from his worst nightmare into a dream date? He pinched himself to check he wasn’t dreaming. Then he remembered. ‘Adam, about this dead dog we found in the silage….’ he said. To be continued…
NEW SERIES: Ambridge Marketing Forum
Local businesses need to keep reinventing themselves to stay on top in these competitive times. Some of Ambridge’s leading marketeers share their top tips:
• Helen Titchener: ‘In food marketing, the question is: which do consumers value more – organic or local produce? Obviously, value is important, but if your products are traceable, with high welfare standards and no food miles, that can command a premium too… oh, sorry. Rob says I’m rambling again.’
• Toby Fairbrother: ‘Hey guys – remember you are your own brand! For instance, suppose you’ve spent a fortnight on an Argentinian dude ranch, and your father once owned some cows. With just a few tweaks to your CV, you’re a fully-qualified beef farmer. Result!’
• Pip Archer: ‘As a new graduate, you’ll be full of bright marketing ideas – not that silly Hassle the Lamb thing you did years ago. Make sure you keep notes with the silver fountain pen Granny Heather gave you from beyond the grave. Oh, and find a mentor. Toby Fairbrother puts fire in my belly! Do you know him?’
• Eddie Grundy: ‘Get a website! Grundy’s Turkie’s is online – and I don’t mean Clarrie’s washing line! Our Emma’s done a great job with pictures of the kiddies and you can read the whole history of the Grundie’s, from Caleb the RaddleMan to today’s multi-million pound, award-winning poultry empire. (Yes, OK. Leave it to Advertising Standards. Ed).
Letter to The Editor
After our disastrous trip to Ambridge back in spring, my wife Wilma and I swore we’d never be back. But then the folks at Grey Gables sent us an invite for a free stay (from a smart young guy, Roy Tucker). So we thought we’d give it another whirl and Wilma called up to make reservations for late fall. Man, you guys need to know that either she had a crossed line, or Grey Gables ain’t the place you think it is. All Wilma asked about was a double room, but this grand-sounding dame seemed to be selling some kind of swingers’ party! ‘Yes, you will need to take your clothes off,’ she said. ‘But there’s plenty of furniture and bowls of fruit. No one will see your private areas – although people will love to see you expand your repertoire! And of course we’ll do all we can to make you comfortable. Complete discretion is assured.’
I don’t know what the hell was going on – Wilma called 911 and was taken off to the Oprah Winfrey Rehab Centre in Charleston before she could tell me the whole story.
But you guys need to know that your sleepy little old country house hotel is nothing less than Sodom and Gomorrah and you won’t never see a Cornstalk there again.
Wilbur M. Cornstalk, West Virginia, USA.