Sunday, 26 March 2017

Usha speaks out, Justin shows his hand and Jill bares all: a mortifying week in Ambridge

New row breaks out at cricket club


After its controversial decision to admit women players to the team, Ambridge Cricket Club found itself embroiled in a new crisis this week.
Ambridge solicitor Usha Franks has threatened to take legal action against the club and captain Harrison Burns, as she claims she has been banned from playing because of her age.
‘I know I am not a great cricketer, but I’m very willing and I tidied up the bats and balls at nets in an exemplary manner,’ she said. ‘But the captain took me on one side and said it might be better if I helped Fallon make the teas!
‘When I pointed out that, unlike Molly Button, I hadn’t thrown a bat at Chris Carter’s head or bitten my way out of the nets, he had the nerve to say I didn’t have the same ‘potential’. Well, we all know that’s everyday ageism code for ‘too old’. I have taken legal advice from myself and have decided I have a strong case. Ambridge Cricket Club will regret crossing me!’
Contacted by the Ambridge Observer, Mr Burns was defiant. ‘This team is all about winning, not just turning up and being charming to each other,’ he said. ‘Usha is a lovely lady but she has shown absolutely no aptitude with bat or ball in two sessions of nets. The fact that she is well past her sell-by date is neither here or there.’
Mr Burns added that, as Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit, he was looking forward to giving evidence to himself if the case comes to court.

We did nothing wrong, say hunt bosses


The masters of the South Borsetshire Hunt have defended themselves against charges of negligence after a section of the kennels roof collapsed this week, injuring several hounds and causing £8,000 worth of damage.
‘We strongly reject any suggestion that we have let the hunt premises go to rack and ruin while we were off spending the hunt subscriptions on port,’ said joint master Perry Diamond-Stockpin.
‘The fact is, we took excellent precautions by appointing Shula Hebden Lloyd as joint master. We knew she would be so flattered that she’d forget to do any due diligence, and too embarrassed not to stump up for the whole lot if we just sloped off and left her to it.’

Coffee break with… Leroy Brown


In our occasional series of interviews with readers who have interesting jobs, we catch up with Leroy Brown, the exercise instructor who’s making a big splash at Grey Gables.

Q Do you work full-time at Grey Gables?
A Oh no babes, I go anywhere the ladies need a bit of Leroy in their lives – Borchester, Felpersham, Redditch. One client follows me all the way to Solihull for my legs, bums and tums.

Q Why do you think your Aquafit class is so successful?
A You gotta have three things babes – the music, the moves and the magic! And if you’re ripped like me, well the ladies love a bit of eye candy, know what I mean? One of my personal training clients, Mandy Beesborough, says I remind her of a young Brian Aldridge. Don’t know him; was he in a boy band?

Q Does anything amusing ever happen at your classes?
A Well, I always make it fun babes.  But at Aquafit this week we had a giggle – one lady was wearing this ancient swimsuit that went completely see-through when it got wet. Game old bird: must have been 80 if she was a day. You should have heard her. ‘Carol! Help! Fetch me a towel!’ We all got an eyeful. Still, it’s all in a day’s work for Leroy, know what I mean babes?

Q Are you planning to introduce any new classes at Grey Gables?
A Yeah, I reckon boxercise could go down well. From what I’ve seen from the fight for the free smoothies after class, some of these Ambridge ladies are quite handy with their fists already, know what I’m saying?     

Business news exclusive: Borchester Land board weigh up Ramsbury deal


The future of the broiler unit in Ramsbury, with 20 jobs at stake, hangs in the balance this week as the directors of Borchester Land meet to finalise their bid. The Ambridge Observer has been given an early sight of the agenda, drawn up by Damara chairman Justin Elliott:
1.     Apologies:
How should Justin apologise to Lilian?
2.     Declarations of interest:
Justin is definitely still interested in marrying her.
3.     Proposal:
After the disaster in The Bull, when and where should Justin next pop the question?
4.     Financial position:
However much Justin’s divorce costs, Lilian is worth it.
5.     Investor relations:
Justin wishes to resume these with Lilian as soon as possible.
6.     Evaluation of assets:
Ooh yes, Lilian is a fine figure of a woman.
(Are you sure? That’s enough agenda. Ed).

Treat your mum this Mother’s Day!


Every mum deserves to be pampered, so why not whisk her away to one of Ambridge’s rural retreats for a very special Mother’s Day weekend?

Spiritual Home (Home Farm)
Relax in your own luxury yurt, enjoy a delicious vegan menu and treat yourself to hot stone massages, Reiki sessions and mother-daughter primal scream therapy (led by expert Kate Madikane, assisted by Jennifer Aldridge).   
Ambridge Hall
Enjoy our beautiful gardens, home-grown vegetables, five-star breakfast buffet (What’s On in Borsetshire, 2016), plus complimentary neck-and-shoulder massages from an experienced therapist in your own feng shui-friendly en-suite bedroom.  Bookings: Lynda Snell.
Grange Farm
Experience the full country experience, as recommended by Big Eric, Fat Paul, Baggy, Snatch and many other satisfied customers. Farmhouse breakfasts, new toilet rolls for every guest, and a free massage from Clarrie Grundy*, who’s good at churning yogurt so can sort your knotted-up back muscles out a treat.
*To be confirmed once Eddie can talk her into it.

Your week in the stars


Our resident astrologer Janet Planet reveals what fate has in store as the vernal equinox turns our thoughts to summer:

Pisces
Money is in your charts this week, and Pisceans looking for a loan from the older generation will have an anxious wait. Pisceans may also learn the hard way that love and money do not mix, as an alcohol-based business venture proves frustratingly slow to provide a return.
Taurus
An ex will come bouncing back into your life this week, full of ideas about fermented foods, but friendship rather than romance is forecast as Taureans who have suffered a recent trauma are not ready for love. A hospital appointment will bring news that profoundly affects your future.
Cancer
Yet again, Cancerians feel let down by family members who promise to consult you on important business decisions and then ignore you. Try to be happy for a relative who has sold her first drone technology package, even though she has sold it to your stepfather and you disagree with the purchase. You may have to pick up the pieces if it breaks down.
Sagittarius
Even super-qualified Sagittarians cannot be in two places at once, and will find themselves torn between family and professional commitments this week. Take care that a new business venture doesn’t suffer too much, especially if you have persuaded your partner to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in new kit but as yet haven’t got any new clients. Sleepless nights may be in store!  

Sunday, 19 March 2017

A shock at Brookfield, Pip in trouble and Justin in a pickle: an extraordinary week in Ambridge

Brookfield ‘devastated’ by desserts blow


David Archer of Brookfield in Ambridge says the farm could take ‘years’ to recover after a devastating blow this week.
‘It’s a disaster. We simply have no idea where the family’s next pudding is coming from,’ said Mr Archer. Visibly shocked, he revealed that his mother Jill had burnt an apple pie and a birthday cake by taking a nap while baking.
‘This is uncharted territory for us,’ admitted Mr Archer. ‘We’re usually so careful about baked goods security. You’re never more than a few steps away from a freshly made flapjack. But after this, we’ll have to rethink completely. It may mean buying in our cakes and biscuits. Or Ruth could cook. But that’s the Doomsday scenario.’
Mrs Archer said she was at a loss to explain what had happened. ‘In 60 years of baking I’ve never lost a cake,’ she said. ‘But I have been feeling a little strange since my friend Carol Tregorran made me give up coffee and replaced it with her herbal teas. She’d do anything to put me off my stroke for the Flower & Produce Show.’
 

Watch out for AGA outbreaks, medics warn


Public Health Borsetshire has warned families to be vigilant after an outbreak of an unusual virus was reported in Ambridge. ‘Accelerated Geriatric Aquafiteitis, known as AGA, tends to affect older, female patients and is highly infectious,’ said Dr Bea Ware. ‘It only takes one lady to tell her friend about Leroy’s new water-based, low-impact exercise class and the next thing you know they’re all at it.’
Dr Ware said AGA can cause symptoms such as ‘prune skin’, an unpleasant whiff of chlorine and, in more serious cases, verrucas. ‘We advise patients to self-medicate with tea, cake and a nice sit-down,’ said Dr Ware. ‘After a few weeks of soggy swimsuits and fighting over the hairdryer, the virus usually subsides.’

Business special: Hit up the Hammerhead!


The Ambridge Observer is delighted that U.S. flooring magnate Andy ‘Hammerhead’ Anderson, who is staying at Ambridge Hall this week, has graciously taken time out from his bird-watching tour with Robert Snell to advise young local entrepreneurs.  

Dear Andy,
My new online farm machinery sales business is doing really well, but I need space to work. My gran needs the kitchen table for her baking, and when I tried to set up my laptop at Grey Gables, Lynda Snell told me off for not buying a drink. What do you advise? Josh A.
  
Yo, Josh,
Are you kidding me? How you gonna make your first million if you can’t even find yourself a place to work? And are you seriously telling me you let little old ladies stop you doing a deal? Get yourself a girlfriend who works in a coffee shop, and ask me again when you’ve got a real problem, loser.   

Dear Andy,
My dad turned me down for a loan to buy some new cattle because he thinks I’ve still got the profits from the last lot. He doesn’t know I lent it all to my boyfriend to make gin. And now our cows have caught an awful virus and I think it’s my fault because I let them out. It’s all so unfair! What can I do?  Pip A.

Hey Pip!
Are you really as dumb as your name? If I was your pa I wouldn’t put you in charge of a can of soda, let alone a bunch of cows. Quit your pity party, help your folks out and buy yourself some time before your pa starts asking questions. And when that happens, you better hope that boyfriend of yours makes a mean bottle of gin ‘cos you may need a plan B, you know what I’m saying?  

Dear Andy,
I gave my father a brilliant 45-minute presentation on my company’s service, which links cutting-edge crop mapping and targeting technology with drone-based delivery of pesticides and fertilisers. I could see he was concentrating because his eyes were closed, but he hasn’t yet placed an order. How can I close the sale? Alice.

Alice, Alice, Alice.
You sure have disappeared down that rabbit hole – but this ain’t Wonderland! How you gonna shift that there high-falutin’ tech kit if even your pa can’t stay awake for your pitch? While he’s snoozin’, you’re losin’! Cut it down to 10 minutes and throw in free pizza. You’re welcome.

The Trials of … Justin Elliott


In the latest chapter of our passionate saga by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero has gambled everything for love – but will he win or lose?

‘Oh, darling. This is so wonderful.’ Justin nuzzled Lilian’s neck, inhaling that delicious aroma of Crème de la Mer and Voltarol. ‘The music? Yes… I’ve always loved André Rieu’s Breakfast in Bucharest,’ murmured Lilian. ‘No, silly! I mean spending all our time together! You’re so much more exciting than chilly old Miranda. She could never see the potential of the broiler unit at Ramsbury like you can darling!’
‘That’s sweet of you Justin. But I do have a life at Home Farm, you know!’ Lilian smiled as she drew on her Poule de Luxe satin peignoir, but Justin sensed a slight cooling in the atmosphere. ‘Say you’ll be back soon darling? That salami I bought last week is nearly past its sell-by date!’
Lilian pursed those lips he loved in a moue of distaste. ‘Come on darling… it takes more than a bit of old salami to keep me happy, you know!’ And with that she was off to the en-suite. So Lilian wanted excitement, did she? Justin reached for his phone…

*

‘So you see, darling, I’ve got it all mapped out!’ They were walking arm-in-arm through the country park, digesting the late breakfast of eggs Benedict and Danish pastries they’d enjoyed at Grey Gables. Justin regretted leaving the Rennies behind in his rush to tell Lilian his plans. ‘There’s this marvellous service called Codgers Concierge, and they’ve sorted the whole Season for us! Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, Glyndebourne – I’ve never seen Don Pasquale; it sounds wonderful – all with coach transport, packed lunches, loo breaks and hearing loops! Don’t you think so Lilian?’
‘What, darling? Oh yes, I adore Joe Pasquale!’ Again, Lilian seemed distracted. Perhaps it was the shouts and scuffles coming from the bird-watching hide, where Robert Snell and Jim Lloyd were putting on their traditional ‘Dance of the Tetchy Twitchers’ for some tourists.
‘We won’t miss that on our honeymoon, will we darling?” Justin squeezed Lilian’s hand. ‘But I’ll leave all the wedding details up to you.’
To his horror, she dropped his hand as if it were covered in fox poo. ‘Honeymoon? Oh, my goodness, is that the time? Shouldn’t you be in Felpersham Justin? And I have to… I have to… goodbye!’ And with that she hurried off towards the lake, leaving Justin to wonder what he’d done wrong this time…    
  
*

‘Oh Lilian, it’s so wonderful to see you! Here, have a glass of this almost acceptable Riesling.’ Justin’s words were heartfelt. His fears that she was having doubts, which had grown during those long afternoons at the Dower House watching Countdown, subsided. But Lilian, who usually attacked her meals like a gundog, was toying with Wayne’s special rissoles. ‘I’m sorry I stayed away so long, darling,’ she said. ‘But the thing is, this talk of weddings and honeymoons was all so …. sudden! And you know, you’ve never actually said that you love me!’
Justin’s heart flipped over with relief. Was that all it was? ‘Oh, you silly, silly darling,’ he boomed, drawing the attention of Robert Snell and Jim Lloyd, who had invested the tourists’ tips at the bar. Pushing back his chair with a loud scrape, he went down on one knee. Thank the Lord he had remembered the Ralgex that morning. ‘Lilian, you are the most exciting woman I have ever met and I love you from the bottom of my heart. Marry me, you luscious wench!’
There was an awful silence, broken only when Barry Simmons burst a crisp packet. Lilian gasped: ‘Oh! I just don’t know….  I’m sorry, I’m so sorry… ‘ and with that she was gone again, leaving him on his knees on the pub floor. His feeling of dread was as cold as the spilt beer seeping in through his pale yellow corduroys….
To be continued…

     

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Cricket bombshell, traffic trouble and Justin makes a choice: an historic week in Ambridge

Charities ‘delighted’ by Elliott’s change of heart


Business organisations and charities throughout the county say they are ‘surprised but thrilled’ after a U-turn by Justin Elliott on his commitment to local affairs.
‘Last week, we heard that Mr Elliott was withdrawing completely,’ said a spokesperson for the Borsetshire Organisation for Networking Knowhow (BONK). ‘But now his social secretary says he’s back in the saddle and this time it’s for keeps.’
Damara Capital’s press officer confirmed its chairman would be based in Borsetshire for the foreseeable future. ‘Mr Elliott has put himself completely in the hands of his social secretary, Mrs Lilian Bellamy,’ she said. ‘Both parties are very satisfied with this arrangement and will be taking time to allow it to bed in properly.’
Charities said they had been told that in future Mr Elliott will be accompanied to events by Mrs Bellamy and not by his wife Miranda. ‘We’re quite relieved, to be honest,’ said one. ‘Mrs Elliott was a bit chilly. Completely ignored the winners of the Year 5 road safety quiz when she came to Loxley Barrett.’  

Burns ‘deceived cricket club’ over women players


In an historic move, Ambridge Cricket Club voted this week to admit women to the team in a bid to save cricket in the village.
But following an investigation, The Ambridge Observer can exclusively reveal that captain Harrison Burns deceived members into backing the controversial measure.   
PC Burns produced a bombshell email from Chris Hill, captain of Darrington Cricket Club, at a stormy EGM on Thursday. It said Darrington would agree to a merger with Ambridge, but made it clear Ambridge would be a junior partner in the deal. Faced with this option, members reversed their decision at the AGM and voted in favour of admitting women.
But our Freedom of Information Act request to see the email failed to turn up any record of it, and Mr Hill said he’d had no ‘formal contact’ with the Ambridge captain.
‘I did say to Harrison once in the pub that we might let Ambridge clean our kit, but that’s about it. It was just bantz,’ he said. ‘Did you say they’re going to let women in? Ha ha ha ha ha ha.’
Contacted by The Ambridge Observer, PC Burns said that under the club constitution, the vote would stand, but he would refer himself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. ‘I suppose I did overstep the mark,’ he admitted. ‘But it was worth it to secure the future of cricket in Ambridge. The members will come round in time. And as I said to Lynda Snell just the other day, sometimes the ends justify the means.’    

All change in the pavilion: here come the girls! (women. We’ve been through this. Ed)


Ambridge cricket captain Harrison Burns unveiled his secret weapon this week – the four women who’ll be joining the team for the 2017 season. The Ambridge Observer profiles the new recruits:   

Molly Button

Young Molly may be inexperienced but she’s got fire in her belly (that arson charge was dropped though) and her reputation goes before her: she’s banned from the Brownies rounders team for sledging. Brown Owl said she’d never heard the like and she was in the Navy. When Molly’s batting, watch out for sister Tilly causing an eye-popping diversion at deep square leg.

Lily Pargetter

Super-bright Lily brings a cerebral touch to the team. Once she focuses her intellect more on batting strategy, and less on organising canapés for the post-match drinks, she’ll be a valuable asset. And the lads will love the colourful throws and scented candles she’s borrowed from Lower Loxley for the pavilion.

Anisha Jayakody

Beware Ambridge’s new vet! ‘Miss Muralitharan’ will have your eye out with her lethal off-spin. Just ask Shula Hebden Lloyd’s mare Damson, who experienced Anisha’s fearless approach and surgical precision this week. Like Damson, Darrington’s top order batsmen  will be wandering round in circles after Anisha’s taken care of them!

Pip Archer

Pip knocked Rex Fairbrother for six at last year’s single wicket and shortly afterwards did the same to his brother Toby. Pip knows all about organising a field, especially if it’s got escaped cows in, and she’s a past master of the pull shot, as anyone who’s seen her deliver a calf with ropes will know. With both brothers fighting to impress her, Pip, Rex and Toby are a ‘triple threat’ to be reckoned with this season.

Ambridge Parish Council Meeting, 16 March 2017 – Agenda


1.     Presentation by Mrs L. Snell: Traffic calming measures in surrounding villages and their impact on speeding traffic through Ambridge.
Proposal: to equip the Button sisters with air guns and position them at ‘hot spot’ junctions in the village. (Surely: to equip volunteers with speed guns? Please check. Ed).
2.     Presentation by A. Macy: Impact of Brexit on recruiting seasonal workers for fruit cultivation and picking.
Proposal: to allow Mr Macy to advertise job vacancies at Home Farm on the council website. No experience of polytunnels needed as Mr Macy will provide thorough 1-to-1 inductions.
3.     Presentation by H. Burns: Changing facilities for Ambridge Cricket Club.
Proposal: to allow a Portakabin to be installed beside the pavilion for women players. (Over my dead body. Cllr D Fletcher).

Borsetshire Rural Cinema: showing this week


Don’t miss our exciting triple bill:

Lord Of The Sties. Feelgood movie. A young pig entrepreneur takes time off to go a conference in Brazil. While he is away his Scottish employee, who pretends to be a tough guy but is a softie really, buys a load of snacks and cheers up an unhappy friend with an afternoon of DVDs.

Miranda and Cash. A wife whose marriage is threatened confronts her husband’s mistress on horseback, but fails to stop their relationship and vows to fight him for every penny in a bitter divorce. (Contains scenes of extreme awkwardness).

Now, Dowager. Romantic drama. A lonely widow seizes her chance of happiness with a married man, despite the disapproval of her wealthy but monstrous mother. Tables are turned when her lover leaves his wife and proposes to her. Her mother smashes her second-best tea set in a fit of impotent rage.      

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A party at Home Farm, a parting at Bridge Farm and a near miss for Lily: it’s all go in Ambridge

Stores floored by rush for rough puff


Supermarkets and bakeries across Borsetshire sent out for extra supplies of ready-made pastry this week following a ‘massive spike’ in demand.
Shoppers were rationed to one packet of shortcrust per person where stocks were available. Some stores sold out altogether and had to apologise to disappointed customers.
‘We’ve not seen anything like it since Delia went big on cranberries,’ said a spokesperson for Underwoods food hall.
Retailers blamed the shortage on huge orders from Ambridge-based caterers who were cooking for a large party. ‘They’d got pastry in every single dish,’ said one who preferred not to be named. ‘Quiches, savoury puffs, rabbit pie, leek and mushroom pie, cream horns and apple tarts – let’s just say I feel sorry for any guests with a gluten intolerance.’
Contacted for comment, Fallon Rogers of the Ambridge Tea Service said she was sorry if shoppers were inconvenienced but defended her menu. ‘It wasn’t all pastry – we had shepherd’s pie in ramekins,’ she said. ‘Our client Mrs Aldridge was very pleased with our theme. And so what if we didn’t make our own pastry? It was all beautifully cooked – no soggy bottoms at Home Farm!’

Mayor cancels public engagements


The Mayor of Felpersham has cleared her diary this week after being taken ill at a private party last Friday. Rachel Pilkington was a guest of Brian and Jennifer Aldridge at Home Farm, Ambridge, when she apparently had a strong reaction to a sprig of rosemary sticking out of a shepherd’s pie. ‘The Mayor does have some unusual allergies, which often manifest themselves at the end of a convivial evening,’ her press officer said. 
Mrs Pilkington was expected at several civic occasions this week, including the opening of a new wing at Sunny Meadows Care Home. ‘I hope they don’t cancel the tea, but I won’t mind if the Mayor doesn’t come,’ said resident Mrs Edna Sparrow, 92. ‘Last time she was here she drank all my gin.’

Ask Auntie Satya


With her warm wit and forensic legal skills, Auntie Satya is here to solve your emotional and practical dilemmas!

Dear Auntie Satya,

I’m learning to drive and unfortunately last week when I was out with Uncle David I forgot to brake and nearly ran over our neighbour Mrs Snell. She was so furious I was too scared to get out of the car and apologise. But afterwards I sent her a bowl of narcissi with a hand-written card. Did I do the right thing? Lily, Lower Loxley.

Dear Lily,

That was a thoughtful gift and I am sure Mrs Snell will accept your apology. But please pay closer attention to your driving. Police officers, traffic wardens and HGV drivers cannot easily be won over with flowers and a note – although you do have lovely handwriting. That’s the Cathedral School for you.  

Dear Auntie Satya,

A family in our village has started taking in paying guests. I run a 5-star bed-and-breakfast with feng shui in every room, so it is galling to see them poaching our customers. I am tempted to inform their landlord, who is a friend, but I wouldn’t like to see them evicted. What do you advise? Lynda, Ambridge Hall.

Dear Lynda,

Beware: such drastic action may backfire on you and no one likes a sneak. Instead, why not post an anonymous review of your rivals’ offering? Highlight the quirkier aspects, such as ferrets in the kitchen, a pigsty in the back yard, or an elderly gentleman paring his corns at the breakfast table. I’m sure you will soon have guests flocking gratefully to your Egyptian cotton sheets and home-made quince preserve. Good luck!

Dear Auntie Satya,

A man I met recently is doing odd jobs to make ends meet. He has cut my hedge and driven me in his taxi, but refused to accept a tip. Now he is trying to teach me to play cricket. I am pretending to be a duffer, because I quite fancy him, but my Uncle Ravi used to call me ‘Miss Muralitharan’ because I was so lethal with the off-spin. Should I tell him the truth? Anisha, Ambridge.  

Dear Anisha,

On no account. You have already hurt this young man’s pride by offering him money. Undermining his cricket skills at this stage would cut him to the quick and your hopes of romance would be over. Wait until the team is losing to Darrington, then take six cheap wickets to secure the win. In the ensuing euphoria, he will forget your little deception.

The Trials of Tom Archer


In the latest chapter of our romantic Spring saga, by award-winning novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero fears he will never know happiness again…

Tom wrestled with the sacks of potatoes. They were heavy, but not as heavy as his heart. ‘Come on son, I’ll do that!’ Tony tapped him on the shoulder. ‘You’ve got to start packing! Henry’s made you some brownies for the plane!’
Tom sighed. ‘Oh, dad, how can I go to the Nuffield Scholarship inter-disciplinary farming conference in Brasilia with my friend from Dumfries? I’m needed here!’
Tony shook his head. ‘Don’t feel guilty about leaving the farm, son. You’ve done it before, remember, when you jilted Kirsty? Oh – I’m sorry. What an old fool I am.’
Tom winced in pain, but his father was right. He’d already hurt Kirsty enough. Better for her if he was thousands of miles away. Yet when he texted her in the small hours, when neither of them could sleep, to tell her about Maurice the butcher’s latest merry quip, and she replied with a smiley face, he felt… ‘OK dad,’ he said. ‘Just give me a minute…’

*

‘So you see, Ruth, that door is firmly closed. I’m not going to Brazil. I just wanted to ask you about the chap who grows Red Russian kale in Darrington.’
Ruth looked up at him, her eyes soft with concern as she tube-fed three tiny lambs with one hand and wielded the disinfectant spray with the other. ‘But you know Tom, you’ll feel better if you get on with everyday jobs,’ she said. ‘Keep yourself busy, like. That’s what worked for me and David. You never get over it, mind.’ She bent her head to the lambs and wiped her eyes on her overalls sleeve.
‘But Ruth – how can I go and talk about organic baby food as if nothing’s happened? I was going to be a dad – now I’m not!’
‘Aye, I know. It’s not easy. But mebbe you could come up with another topic. What about Red Russian kale?’ Ruth grinned at him and he couldn’t help smiling back. ‘Come on, Tom. Is it really too late to change your mind?’

*

‘Damn! I just sat on the brownies.’ Tom salvaged a soggy package from the car seat. ‘Never mind. I won’t tell Henry,’ Helen said. ‘By the time you get back from Brazil, he’ll have forgotten. Look, we’re nearly there.’ The bright lights of the airport lay before them. Tom was suddenly seized with doubt. ‘Helen – are you sure I’m doing the right thing? Shouldn’t I be in Ambridge, in case Kirsty needs me?’
‘Tom, we’ve been through this,’ said Helen. ‘You know Kirsty said she’d only feel worse if she felt she’d kept you from your farming dream! And you’re doing this for me too, remember? The organic baby food would have been my project, if I hadn’t been in prison!’
‘Yes, of course. Although it might be Red Russian kale now. That’s OK, isn’t it?’
‘It’s all fine, Tom. Now come on. Time to check in. Isn’t that your friend from Dumfries?’
It was. Tom waved at Murdo. No turning back now. But still the thought of Kirsty, and what might have been, tormented him. ‘Helen! I can’t…’ he cried. But his sister had already gone….
To be continued…