Boffins descended on Borsetshire last weekend (surely, the University of Lincoln? Ed) to put life in Ambridge under the spotlight of academic scrutiny as never before. This special supplement reports on residents’ reactions as the village is left reeling from their research findings…
(Click the links for YouTube evidence)
Report slams ‘darker side’ of Flower & Produce
The committee of the Ambridge Flower & Produce Show met this week and vowed to ‘drain the swamp’ of cheating and corruption that has clouded the event in recent years. They were responding to Rachel Daniels and Annie Maddison Warren of Cranfield University, who presented a report highlighting some of the worst examples. These included the swapping of labels on green beans, making bread in a machine, the illicit use of twine and of course, last year’s ‘Chutneygate’.
‘Frankly there was no need to bring any of that up again,’ said a spokesperson. ‘No one likes to be reminded that the Flower & Produce Show has a darker side. The vast majority wouldn’t dream of cheating. But that said, the tantalising glimpse of a ‘Best in Show’ certificate can make good people do bad things.’
On a more positive note, there will be a new category in the show this year: Most Impressive Sausage. ‘We’re expecting a large entry, but initial canvassing suggests that Jazzer McCreary will be the big winner,’ said Dr Cara Courage of the University of Brighton. ‘I for one can’t wait to see what he brings to the table.’
There will also be a prize for Best Female Birdwatcher, sponsored by Joanna Dobson of Sheffield Hallam University. ‘Birdwatching is an overwhelmingly male hobby in Ambridge, even though Molly Button saved the day in the Great Bird Race in 2015,’ she said. ‘We hope this prize will encourage more women to take an active part, instead of using the hide in the country park to drink cider and talk about men.’
However, the committee turned down Nathan Booth’s suggestion of a prize for the Biggest Melons. (Oh, dear God. Ed).
New family game promises fortune for Josh
Young Ambridge entrepreneur Josh Archer reckons he’ll make a fortune this Christmas with his latest venture – a board game called AmOpoly. It’s described as ‘anarcho-syndicalist fun for all the family’ and has been devised with the help of Dr Nicola Headlam of Oxford University.
‘It’s really cool,’ said Mr Archer. ‘You choose a piece that represents a local family – for instance a pheasant for the Aldridges, a cow for the Brookfield Archers or a ferret for the Grundys – and then you dash round the board forming power networks. If you throw a three you join the Parish Council (formal governance), but you get extra points for landing on Lynda Snell, who has lots of soft power by running the panto.
‘If you land on a Horrobin square you go straight to prison, but you can use an Aldridge ‘get out of jail free’ card to escape,’ added Mr Archer. ‘I got that idea from Louise Gillies of King’s College, London, and her colleague Helen Burrows. They dropped in to buy some eggs one day and we got chatting about genograms and dysfunctional families, like you do.’
Mr Archer says AmOpoly is already proving a hit with family members. ‘My gran keeps playing it to see if she can make the Fairbrothers disappear, but they never do,’ he said. ‘The aim of the game is to join all your power networks together and see who comes out on top. Amazingly, it’s Ed Grundy. Whoever gets to crown him king of Ambridge is the winner. And everyone’s cool with that because we all like Ed.’
Parish Council forgets to remember
Ambridge Parish Council has apologised to residents after being forced to admit it has ‘mislaid’ the village War Memorial.
‘We realised this some years ago, but hoped no one would notice if we kept holding our Armistice Day ceremonies in different places, such as in St Stephen’s or on Lakey Hill,’ said a shame-faced Neil Carter, parish council chair. ‘But Jessica Meyer of the University of Leeds has been looking into it and although we hoped she would find the memorial on the village green somewhere she’s had no luck.’
Mr Carter said the council would be consulting stakeholders on replacing the lost memorial. ‘If this proves difficult in the current financial climate, Mr and Mrs Snell have kindly offered the use of their ‘Resurgam’ stone as a “lieu de mémoire”, he said. ‘This is not only typographically fitting, but also has the benefit of the nearby shepherd’s hut in case of inclement weather.’
• Pies need pimping?
• Poultry sales a turkey?
• Need to shift more sausages?
Use social media to boost your business with this simple three-point guide!
• Take loads of lovely photos of your products (leave out dead animals, slurry heaps, unattractive older relatives etc)
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Don’t delay: contact Olivia Vandyk at Gingham Cloud today! (Landline is best; broadband is rubbish in Borsetshire).
St Stephen’s is asking worshippers to celebrate this year’s Harvest Festival by drinking coffee, eating croissants and listening to the radio, instead of attending church.
‘It is a break from tradition,’ said visiting preacher Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler of Methodist Church House. ‘But to be honest you will find as many moral dilemmas on the radio on a Sunday morning as you will in one of Revd Franks’s sermons.’
Revd Dr Hustler said the congregation will be encouraged to reflect on sustainability, using the collect “Just look at the state of this soil”. They will also be asked to give thanks for local people who help their neighbours “not just to eat, but to eat well”, such as Ed Grundy and his high-quality milk, Tom Archer’s high-welfare sausages and Ruth Archer’s stuffed-crust frozen pizza. (are you sure? Ed).
Meanwhile Revd Alan Franks is on an extended period of leave, while he recovers from his failed attempts to reach out to the disgraced fugitive, Rob Titchener. ‘Alan did his best, but I could have told him there is no saving a man who chose to get married on the Isle of Wight,’ said Revd Dr Hustler.
‘Steer clear of pretend policing,’ public warned
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) issued a stark warning this week after several people claiming to be police officers were seen in Ambridge. ‘It has been brought to my attention that persons calling themselves @Borsetpolice ,@CSI_Ambridge and even @PCBurns have been spotted in the village,’ PC Burns told a packed press conference. ‘They have been telling people to mind how they go, failing to find missing bunting and examining crisp spatter patterns in The Bull. These are all my jobs and I do them perfectly well.’
PC Burns reminded the public that impersonating a police officer, or even having an item of police equipment on the person, carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment. ‘To that end I have cautioned the individuals involved – they know who they are,’ he said. ‘And I have told Jazzer McCreary to put his truncheon away.’ (oh, please. Totally uncalled-for. Ed).
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I thought your readers might be interested in some research that shows just how difficult it is for local students to gain a place at Oxford University. Did you know that, according to Felicity Macdonald-Smith, only 18.8% of acceptances at Oxford are from state schools in the West Midlands? And that PPE is one of the most over-subscribed courses?
Far be it from me to point out that my granddaughter Phoebe recently won a place at Oxford to read PPE – although I don’t think she’s actually mentioned which college. And Ms Macdonald-Smith said her A level grades of A*AAA are only average for Oxford. Of course she’s quite wrong about that.
But we’re so lucky that Phoebe had her grandfather Brian to help her fine-tune her political skills, by reading her his favourite bits from the Daily Telegraph. I’m sure that made all the difference.
Jennifer Aldridge, Home Farm.
Ambridge Observer Arts Exclusive:
Desert Island Discs with Rob Titchener
This week, Desert Island Discs departs from tradition by interviewing a celebrity who has already been cast away – Rob Titchener, who recently fled Ambridge after being shunned by the local community. And Kirsty Young makes way for three guest presenters: Dr Freya Jarman and Emily Baker of the University of Liverpool, and Professor Jennifer Brown of the Mannheim Centre, London School ofEconomics.
Prof Brown: Thank you for joining us today, Mr Titchener. Tell us about your first disc: Lonely Boy, by Andrew Gold.
RT: Thank you. After all the lies I’ve endured, I’m entitled to a show of my own. I’m glad you psychologists are giving me the credit I deserve at last. Lonely Boy reminds me of Ursula and Bruce, my mum and dad. ‘They wrapped him up warmly and sent him to school..’ Yes, that was me. Not Miles. He went to day-school, but it was off to prep for me. It was the making of me, once I’d stopped blubbing. It would have done Henry the world of good too. But it wasn’t to be. Helen ruined it, like she ruins everything.
Dr Jarman: Your second choice is Blues In The Night. Why have you chosen Frank Sinatra’s version rather than Ella Fitzgerald’s?
RT: Because I’m a man, you stupid – I mean, it was a tough choice between this and My Way. But I relate more to the lyrics in Sinatra’s version. ‘A woman’s a two-face – a worrysome thing who’ll leave you to sing the blues in the night.’ Says it all, doesn’t it?
Emily Baker: Very interesting, Mr Titchener. Now from Old Blue Eyes to Lyin’ Eyes, by the Eagles. Can we detect a pattern here?
RT: I’m afraid so. I keep asking myself, why am I so unlucky with women? All I do is love them and devote my whole life to them, and every time they betray me. ‘The cheatin’ side of town’. I knew that’s where Helen was going that night she stabbed me. And she tried to say it was all my fault! Do I look like a monster to you?
Prof Brown: Not to me, Mr Titchener. But tell us about the next disc: Luka by Suzanne Vega.
RT: This is another one that takes me back to childhood. ‘If you hear something late at night, some kind of trouble, some kind of fight, just don't ask me what it was…’ I’d sit on the stairs, listening to mum and dad having one of their ‘discussions’. Dad always won. ‘They’re like dogs. You’ve got to show ‘em who’s boss, boy,’ he’d say. Never did me any harm.
Dr Jarman: Next up, it’s Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of Is This Love?. Does it remind you of happier times?
RT: Yes, this song was playing the evening I gave Helen our son Gideon – I mean, Jack. It was a wild night! We were so happy then, so right for each other. Of course, she twisted it all later, tried to say I forced her. All lies. And I paid the price by losing my son.
Emily Baker: Time for your sixth choice. Tainted Love, by Soft Cell. Why have you picked this? (Though to be honest I’ve got a fair idea).
RT: Isn’t it obvious? ‘I gave you all a boy could give you…’ I want Helen to hear this on Radio Borsetshire and realise what she’s driven me to. Are you listening Helen? Are you?
Dr Jarman: Please let go of the microphone, Mr Titchener. Shall we move on? Your seventh choice is Wise Up, by Aimee Mann. What does this mean to you?
RT: ‘It won’t stop till you wise up’. If only Helen wasn’t so stubborn! I don’t just blame her; it was her family, Kirsty, the whole damn village were against me. But part of me still believes she’ll ‘wise up’ one day and we can be a family again.
Prof Brown: It’s time for your last disc, Mr Titchener. What have you chosen?
RT: It’s Firestarter, by The Prodigy. I’m sure everyone can relate to this – you know, getting so angry, so furious, that you just want to destroy everything and everyone that’s hurt you? I swear Helen still makes me so angry some days, I could just get on a plane back to Ambridge and… Hey! Where are you going? Come back! You can’t just leave me here….
An emergency meeting of the Ambridge Emergency Committee will be held next Thursday in the village hall. ‘We will be reacting to shock news from Fiona Gleed of the University of Bath that “sandbags suck”,’ said chair David Archer.
‘Dr Angela Connelly of Manchester University has also reminded us that we need to revise our collective flood memory, which will make us more resilient in future. So we’re trying to remember what worked – like Pip Archer saving Brookfield with only a rusty set of pliers – and trying to forget that we all hailed Rob Titchener as a hero of the flood.’