Flower & Produce: competition hots up
With the Ambridge Flower & Produce Show only days away, villagers have been warned to be vigilant about ‘sabotage and theft’ as competitors seek to gain unfair advantage.
‘We have been notified of one potentially Show-related burglary,’ said Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns). ‘Mrs Carol Tregorran of Glebe Cottage returned from holiday to report her kitchen had been thoroughly searched, and cheese, tomatoes and gingerbread had been taken.
‘Luckily, she had already given her wine, chutney and jam to Mrs Jill Archer of Brookfield for safekeeping. But Mrs Archer also reported the disappearance of jam jars, which she thought might be an attempt to prevent her making her signature blackcurrant jam.
Show veteran Mrs Peggy Woolley confirmed the competition is ‘cut-throat’ this year. ‘The new ‘Best in Show’ award in honour of Freda Fry has got everyone fired up,’ she said. ‘Christine Barford was terrified that someone would steal her scones if she put them outside to cool. But no one wanted them for some reason.’
‘Further enquiries revealed that Mrs Archer had forgotten where she’d put her jars, and Bert Fry and Joe Grundy had been ‘tidying up’ at Glebe Cottage,’ said PC Burns. ‘But be careful out there, F & P people!’
Our special correspondent Hector Cash-Cropp writes:
Damara parts company with PR…
The public relations agency advising Justin Elliott, chairman of Damara Capital, has resigned the account citing ‘strategic differences’. ‘Our position has become increasingly difficult since Mr Elliott appointed Lilian Bellamy to handle him personally,’ said a spokesman for Pitchfork PR. ‘But his decision to take on Rob Titchener as estates manager was a step too far. Only last year, Mr Elliott took our advice to dismiss his herd manager, Charlie Thomas, after the botulism outbreak. So to appoint a man who’s been exposed as a serial abuser and rapist in a court of law is a reputation management disaster in our view.’
‘I’d like to thank Pitchfork for their work, but we agreed to differ in this case,’ said Mr Elliott. ‘Rob Titchener has not been convicted of any offences. Damara’s estates need the firm smack of leadership and Rob is just the man to deliver it.’
… while egg entrepreneur proves he’s a fungi
Josh Archer, who is already making a name for himself with Upper Class Eggs, a business he runs with Rex and Toby Fairbrother at Hollowtree, is branching out in a new direction – a market where he believes there’s ‘mush-room’ for growth.
‘I’m not talking about bog-standard white mushrooms, but exotic types for the specialist market,’ says Josh, who is currently on a gap year.
‘Dad’s got no faith in me at all. He says whatever kind of mushrooms I grow, they’ll be shiitake. But I’ve called in Wayne Tucson, chef at The Bull, as a special adviser. He tells me he’s an expert on mushrooms – or ‘shrooms’, which I believe is the technical term. He says we’ll make a packet.’
From the vicarage fireside….
The Reverend Alan Franks of St Stephen’s writes:
‘You know, sometimes it’s a tiring old job, trying to heal the whole community of Ambridge all on my own. Ever since the dreadful tragedy at Blossom Hill Cottage, villagers have been beating a path to my door, distressed, bewildered and confused.
‘Vicar’, they say, nervously, ‘where have you been all this time? In a crisis we look to you for clichés, platitudes and meaningless sentimental guff. But you were nowhere to be seen!’
‘There now my children,’ I say to them. ‘Just remember to love thy neighbour as thyself, unless they’ve stabbed someone in your buy-to-let property, or left blood all over the carpets, or both. That’s happened to my wife Usha and she’s in a right tizzy about it.
And remember too that the quality of mercy is not strained, cleanliness is next to godliness (which I hope Mr Titchener will remember before vacating the property) and a trouble shared is a trouble halved.’
‘I find these simple words are usually enough to restore people’s hope and belief in the essential goodness of mankind (except for monsters and psychopaths like Rob Titchener, as my wife Usha reminds me.)’
Letter to the Editor
There are few topics more contentious and sensitive than assisted suicide, but I strongly feel it is one we should not be afraid to discuss. For example, imagine yourself in the position of a kind-hearted property owner, who lets his house at a knock-down rent to a very old man who assures you he is not long for this world. Then, before the ink is dry on the tenancy agreement, he suddenly discovers a new lease of life, invites the whole village to his 95th birthday party and announces he intends to go on forever!
In this instance, would it not be the kindest thing to let him fall asleep on your Edwardian chaise longue (which he has dragged outside and turned into a nest for his ferrets) and then, while he is snoring peacefully, smother him with a cushion?
I would be very interested to hear your readers’ views on this issue.
Name and address withheld
AUTUMN FICTION SPECIAL:
The Trials of Adam Macy
In the first chapter of our passionate new seasonal saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero must face up to the consequences of past indiscretions…
‘Oh, Adam, just look at this mess darling!’ Jennifer picked up the cushion by one corner, wrinkling her nose. ‘It’s filthy – what have your fruit pickers been doing on it?’ For one fleeting second, Adam remembered a wild evening with Pawel in this caravan, on that very banquette, the windows steaming up with their passion… My God, what was he thinking? It was this kind of madness that had ruined his marriage to Ian, leaving it as stained and torn as that cushion… ‘Probably a strawberry fight, mum,’ he said miserably. ‘I’ll replace it.’ ‘Look, Adam,’ Jennifer said gently. ‘I know you’re upset because I got drunk and told Rob you can’t keep it in your trousers, and it all came out in court. So to speak. But darling, really, just talk to Ian – it will be alright. I should know – look how often I’ve forgiven Brian!’
Adam smiled wanly. Maybe his mother was right. Perhaps he would ask Ian to go for couples counselling, as she suggested. Or maybe he had to accept that this time, he’d gone too far…
Adam woke with a start, from a horrible nightmare in which Ian had thrown him out of Honeysuckle Cottage. Something was pressed against his thigh – was it Ian? No; it was cold and sharp-edged. He scrabbled for his phone and switched on its torch. In the narrow beam of light, something glimmered – and suddenly the truth hit him like a torrent of freezing water. It was a bar stool, one of several piled on the bed, and he was not at home, but upstairs in The Bull. It was 4.30am, the darkest hour before the dawn, and this was no nightmare – it was all real. Ian’s cruel words came flooding back, filling his head like the cartons of crisp packets that were crammed into every corner of this tiny, bleak room. ‘If Pawel or Charlie were here, you’d be with them, not me… you just can’t help yourself!’ Adam fell back onto his pillow, which Kenton had hastily made up using bar towels stuffed into an old pair of Jolene’s tights. ‘Sorry old mate – but it won’t be for long. You’ll be back at home soon enough!’ Kenton had said. But deep in his heart, Adam feared he might never go home again…
‘So come on Adam, man to man – what do you think the Government will do about farm subsidies post-Brexit?’ Adam appreciated the effort Kenton was making to cheer him up, but his loud farming banter couldn’t drown out the whispers or hide the pointing fingers of The Bull’s regulars. ‘Adam and Ian parted company… no surprise after what came out in court… a sorry business’. He drained his pint and turned on his heel. Home Farm was chaos, with Phoebe getting ready for Oxford, but at least he would be welcome there… ‘Over here, Adam Macy!’ Bert Fry and Joe Grundy were gurning at him from a corner table. ‘Come and join us, young Macy!’ Joe said. ‘We needs a third member of our team for the pub quiz – we’re the Old Contemptibles!’ In spite of himself, Adam smiled. How appropriate, he thought, sinking onto a stool. He had found where he belonged at last…
To be continued…