Saturday, 14 April 2018

Olwen makes her mark, Jenny is beside herself and Spring has sprung

Cricket ‘break-in’: mum’s the word


Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) was called to an incident on Ambridge village green on Wednesday evening as suspicious activity was observed in the women’s cricket pavilion (should that read ‘Portakabin’? Ed.)
‘Passers-by said they saw lights on in the changing room, which is unexpected as the season hasn’t started yet,’ said PC Burns. ‘I thought it might have been Tracey Horrobin, hiding her bottles of Lambrini in the equipment store before the warm-up game.
‘But it was actually Jennifer Aldridge, on step-ladders with a pair of binoculars.
She said she was trying to peer into Honeysuckle Cottage, to see if Lexi was eating every last bite of the casserole Jennifer had sent to feed her up for her visit to the fertility clinic.’
‘I apologise if I was trespassing,’ said Mrs Aldridge. ‘But really, some things are too important to be left to chance. Lexi must be well-nourished and rested to have the best chance of hosting the embryo that contains my darling Adam’s exceptionally robust sperm.’
PC Burns said no further action would be taken.

Ask Auntie Satya


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

Dear Auntie Satya,

My boyfriend was worried about leaving me with nothing if he died, and I thought he was going to ask me to marry him so I made a big fuss about how I didn’t believe in marriage. But it turns out he was only making a will in my favour Now he’s really upset. What can I do? Fallon R.

Dear Fallon,

My dear, I don’t really know why you have written to me. You do not want to marry this young man, and now it seems you will certainly get your wish. Is there some other more serious problem I can help you with?

Dear Auntie Satya,

I voted against my husband in a family business dispute and he is taking it out on me by behaving very strangely – sleeping in the spare room, taking his son on long walks round the farm, and making his own tea. Do you think I should be suspicious of his motives? Jennifer A.

Dear Jennifer,

I believe your husband has recently retired, so many women in your situation would be pleased to see their spouses being active and not sitting around in their pyjamas watching Bargain Hunt. Making his own tea though is a very worrying sign. A preliminary visit to your solicitor would not go amiss.

Dear Auntie Satya,

My wife has recently left me after 20 years of marriage. I feel it is far too soon to date, but my friend says he can ‘set me up’ with ladies from his milk round. He says I’m a catch: in fairly good nick, with money, a nice car and I heal sick fluffy kittens for a living. Do you think I should take him up on it? Alistair L.

Dear Alistair,

No, no, these milk-round ladies do not sound suitable at all. When the time is right, you will clearly be looking for someone mature and discerning. I don’t suppose you would care to call round for tiffin one afternoon next week?   

My Week, by Olwen


Pat Archer of Bridge Farm suggested that we interview her old friend Olwen, who she met while volunteering at The Elms centre for the homeless. Mrs Archer says anyone could experience what happened to Olwen, a perfectly nice woman who is now too poor even to afford a surname.

Sunday

Sunday is like any other day – a chance to stick it to The Man by sitting on a park bench shouting at pigeons. I’ve got a cold – must have caught it at that demo against cuts to dental treatment for ex-service personnel. Later on I’ll rifle through some bins for a leftover takeway. Or if I can’t find one, I’ll probably drive to Waitrose. You can park up overnight there and the croissants they chuck out aren’t bad – not Fairtrade though, mind you. Disgraceful sell-outs.

Monday

Dropped into The Elms for a spot of lunch. Pat Archer was cooking again – does that woman know what a pepper grinder is for? I told her, if I wasn’t a whistle-blowing WASPI woman with a vengeful ex-partner and a victim of council housing cuts, our situations would be reversed! Then I collapsed coughing, so she took me home.

Wednesday

Nearly left Pat’s house because her son Tom turns out to be a bloated kleptocrat. I tried to set fire to his nasty pile of get-rich-quick books but the smoke alarm went off. Pat offered to wash my clothes and run me a hot bath. I agreed, as an act of passive resistance.

Friday

My 100 per cent wool sweater has shrunk, thanks to Pat’s clumsy washing. She’s lost all her spark since chaining herself to that patriarchal dinosaur Tony, who does nothing but tinker with his tractor as far as I can see. I made a point of coughing on his precious cows. He asked me if I’d like to help feed them and I said: ‘Not without an equal pay guarantee, index-linked non-contributory pension and free healthcare, mister! I know my rights!’ He said ‘Oh, OK then, I’ll ask Tom’, and went back to his tractor. Spineless lackey of capitalism!

Poem of the Week


Many thanks to Mrs Lynda Snell of Ambridge Hall for sending us this lovely ‘Tribute to Spring in Ambridge’, inspired by her recent reading of the 14th century narrative poem, Gawain And The Green Knight.

I wandrez with ye grete dogge Guinevere,
From wondruz mountayne Pyreneese
Who mony wysse to be a polar beare!
Mid cowþat foule and bell so blue on village greene.

Sumwhyle Robert wyth his birdez communez
Sumwhyle Harrison sette forth ye crickete nettez
Adam frettez and werrez wyth Ian behynde,
And Jim playz straunge tunez fro morne to nighte

Then wyth thanks syng we all wynter is past
No more colde cler water fro þe cloudez schadden,
And sumers dry3e and du3ty seazon waittes,
Can it bi longe befoure ye Ambridge Faitte?



Saturday, 31 March 2018

A happy Easter (and April Fools’ Day) to all our readers!

Aldridge takes the rough with the smooth


Brian Aldridge, beleaguered owner of Home Farm, is to retire from running the agricultural side of the business and will retrain as a massage therapist at Spiritual Home, the holistic spa run by his daughter Kate Madikane.
‘It’s never too late to make a new start, and the family agreed this was an exciting challenge for me – in fact they insisted,’ said Mr Aldridge. ‘I’m especially looking forward to wearing the smart tunic and trousers combo that Kate has designed for me, in a crisp white polyester with lilac trim.’
Ms Madikane said she was confident her father would attract new customers to Spiritual Home. ‘We’ve had a lot of cancellations since the toxic leak at Low Mead, so it’s time to appeal to a fresh market,’ she said. ‘I’m sure Dad’s new ‘Claret and Old Spice’ deep-tissue massage will be a winner with our more mature clientele.’

Silmarillion is the last straw for Snell


Ambridge residents say they were ‘shocked to the core’ this week by the news that one of the village’s most popular couples is splitting up.
Robert and Lynda Snell, of Ambridge Hall, announced that their marriage is over, citing  ‘irreconcilable differences over The Silmarillion.’
‘Sadly, our life together in Ambridge is at an end,’ said Mrs Snell. ‘How can I stay with someone who actually likes this ragbag of random plots, cardboard characters, pompous language and clunky exposition?’
However, friends of the couple discounted rumours that Mr Snell is becoming closer to Kate Madikane, owner of Spiritual Home. ‘Yes, it’s true that The Silmarillion is Kate’s favourite novel, and she and Robert were discussing it in the tea room,’ said one. ‘That’s as far as it goes – but who knows? Anything can happen in Ambridge these days.’

High-flying hopes at Hollowtree


A prototype of the pigoose, the 'one-stop Christmas dinner' ' 
Neil Carter of Ambridge View and Rex Fairbrother of Hollowtree have joined forces to set up what they describe as a 'game-changing’ livestock business in Ambridge.
Mr Carter, widely known as Borsetshire’s best pigman, and Mr Fairbrother, who specialises in poultry, plan to breed a new species of pig that will have feathers and fly.
‘Rex is experienced with geese and I’m the best pigman in Borsetshire, so it seems like the perfect fit,’ said Mr Carter. ‘Once we get the geese and pigs together at Hollowtree we reckon it won’t be long before they start breeding.
'We think the new ‘pigoose’ will do particularly well at Christmas, as it’s a one-stop festive dinner: roast breast, big juicy legs and ready-made bacon rolls. And it delivers itself to customers' homes on Christmas Eve!’
Mr Fairbrother added that he expects to be the ‘marketing brains’ of the new business. ‘Finding the right name is crucial,’ he said. ‘My brother Toby has suggested ‘Hollowtree Honkers’ but perhaps that needs some work.’

Hats off for the Ambridge Easter Parade!


Ambridge’s annual Easter Bonnet Parade will take place on the village green on Sunday at 3pm.  We ask some local leading ladies to let us in on the secrets of their Spring headgear:
  
• I’m thinking about a cap – something quite jaunty, with a come-hither feather. Is there any particular colour that Welsh builders like? Shula Hebden-not-Lloyd-for-much-longer.

Sweet! 
• ‘I’ll be raising awareness of my work at The Elms by hollowing out a huge round loaf (organic of course), filling it with leftover vegetable stew and tying it to my head with one of my old CND scarves. I plan to carry a large ladle and scoop out stew to anyone who I think looks homeless. As Alan says, Easter is no good if it isn’t  relevant.’ Pat Archer.

‘My bonnet is going to be a chocolate teapot because it reminds me of my boyfriend Harrison. Useless – geddit? We’re all about the bantz, me and PC Burns! He said he wants a chocolate helmet but he’ll be lucky.’ Fallon Rogers.

A lawyer writes…


Frank Lee-Dubious, from the Felpersham solicitors Farr, Fetched and Wrongun, answers readers’ questions:

Q My brother told me his wife ran someone over in her car but didn’t stop because her daughter was throwing up. My brother helped cover for his wife because he didn’t want her to go to prison and anyway no one liked the victim.  Now his wife is dead and the victim has run off to Costa Rica. My brother says he doesn’t feel guilty and would do the same again. What is his legal position? EG

A  In legal terms, what your brother told you is called ‘hearsay’. You could also describe it as ‘chilling’ and ‘quite probably psychopathic’. Unless your brother chooses to confess he may, in legal parlance, have ‘got away with it’. In the meantime, keep him away from strong drink and knives.

Q My wife has sided with two of my children in voting to oust me from my position as head of our family farm partnership. I would never have set up the partnership if I thought people would disagree with me. Do I have any legal redress against this shocking betrayal? BA.

A  I’m afraid this is what we lawyers refer to as ‘being stitched up’. As you set up the partnership you must abide by its rules. And it does sound – forgive the legal jargon again – as if you ‘had it coming’.

And finally …. news in brief


  The Lent Appeal at St Stephen’s, which asked churchgoers to donate £1 every time they complained about something, is set to raise a record amount, according to the Revd Alan Franks. ‘Let’s just say I’ve hired security for the collection on Sunday, and I’m confident we can repair the chancel roof and have plenty left for a nice little cruise round the Balearics for myself and Usha,’ he said.

A local woman was ejected from a cheese-making class in Ambridge this week for being ‘too noisy’. Sabrina Thwaite, of  Grange Spinney, was asked to leave after constantly interrupting tutor Helen Archer, and calling Bridge Farm kefir manager Susan Carter a ‘cheese monitor’. ‘You couldn’t shut her up,’ said Mrs Carter. ‘I think she was set off by finding out the class was having Pat Archer’s vegetable stew for lunch, instead of going to the tea room. Well, you can understand it really. I don’t bear a grudge.’

This Sunday’s Easter Egg hunt at The Bull in Ambridge is to be sponsored by Adam Macy and Ian Craig. ‘It’s really important we find an egg for our surrogate Lexi, so we hope lots of people take part,’ said Mr Macy. ‘She’s threatening to get a job in the chicken factory so Ian and I hope she gets pregnant as soon as possible as we don't like the sound of that at all.'

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Farewell to Nic, and hello to Brian's new vision...

Retail village set for livestock site


Artist's impression of how the new retail units will look 
Borchester Land has angered local farmers by deciding to build a number of fashion shops on the former site of Borchester livestock market, instead of an agricultural mega-store.
However, directors are said to be split on the issue. ‘Frankly, Brian Aldridge and Justin Elliott are betraying the local community by putting up yet more shops for the floral welly brigade,’ said one board member.
But chairman Brian Aldridge defended the decision. ‘Our vision for an upmarket countryside destination with adjacent high end retail outlets will cover the whole spectrum of modern, er… sorry, can’t read Justin’s writing – ah yes. Shopping,’ he said.
Ruth Archer, of Brookfield, said she was ‘gutted, like’ about the decision. ‘I was countin’ on somewhere I could buy a sack of dairy nuts, a cheap waxed jacket and a rose in a pot to give Jill on Mother’s Day, all under one roof, like,’ she said.  ‘It’s just another case of Brian puttin’ profits before people, as usual.’


 Festive show promises a daring classic


Ambridge impresario Lynda Snell has given critics a sneak preview of the 2018  Christmas show – a daring adaptation of two much-loved classics. ‘My dear husband Robert gave me the idea,’ she said. ‘I had just finished reading Laurie Lee’s wonderful Cider with Rosie, and Robert persuaded me to start one of his favourites, The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien.
‘To be honest, I was struggling until Robert gave me a stiff gin, and suddenly it came to me. Silmarillion with Cider!’
Mrs Snell said she had a ‘compelling vision’ of recreating Middle Earth in Ambridge, with Jim Lloyd as Eru Iluvatar (God) presiding over a kingdom of elves. ‘And in homage to Laurie Lee, the doomed lovers Beren and Luthien will plight their troth over a pint of Tumble Tussock.’
But Borchester Echo critic Tristram Hawkshaw was sceptical. ‘I hope Mrs Snell gives out free cider to the audience before each show,’ he said.’ It’s the only way anyone could sit through it.’


From the messageboards


We drop in on the AmMums forum, to see what’s got the online community talking this week:

•  Guess what ladies, exciting news! Lexi’s menstrual cycle is downregulating nicely! She went for tests this week. So it will soon be the green light for Adam’s exceptionally agile sperm. Isn’t that marvellous? Jenny.
  I don’t know how you can show your face on here, Jennifer, after what Alice said to Will at the funeral. She’s a selfish girl who doesn’t care about anyone else’s feelings. Clarrie.
Oh Clarrie, I know. I’m so sorry. I’ve already apologised to Will about Alice spoiling his day. But then, his day was pretty bad already, wasn’t it? It’s not as though it was ever going to be enjoyable… Jenny.
Shut up Jennifer. Everyone.
Hello mums, only me! Just wanted to share my great new tip for vegetable stew. It tastes super if you add fruit, nuts and spices to it. Do you know, one of my clients at The Elms suggested it? Who would have thought a homeless person would have an opinion? Pat.
• Clarrie – I see you’re online. I would have apologised in person, but you slammed the door on me… I’m so sorry about the funeral – I’m just having a huge gin to help me forget it. Please forgive me, so we can all move on, because I’m having such a terrible time at work. I mean, just the other day… Alice.
• Shut UP, Alice! Everyone.

 Poem of the Week


Many thanks to Borsetshire Laureate Bert Fry, who has sent us this moving tribute to Nic Grundy, whose funeral was held at St Stephen’s church, Ambridge, on Tuesday.

And so we laid young Nic to rest,
Everyone dressed in their best,
They played a song by Shania Twain,
And a poem about sunshine on grain.

Poor Will, he kept his head held high
As to his only love he said goodbye.
Supported by Nic’s mum, Beverley,
And brother Rod, who came down from Dundee.

It’s a tragic thing to see a grown man
Holding on to his mother’s hand.
But Clarrie and Eddie, they saw Will through,
And looked after those poor children too.

Poppy, too young to understand,
Held a posy in her hand,
And George in his uniform looked so smart,
Emma said it would break her heart.

But life goes on, or so they say,
And Pip Archer’s baby is on the way!
This week she felt the little one kick her,
And then she jumped as if I’d bit her!

I said to Ruth, I’m not being funny
I’d never try to touch her tummy!
She said: Bert, I don’t think you’re seen
As Ambridge’s answer to Harvey Weinstein.’

So farewell Nic, we’ll think about you
And Ambridge won’t be the same without you.
We’ll look after your kiddies, as best we can,
And tell them about their lovely mam.




Saturday, 17 March 2018

Marital strife and spiritual crisis in Ambridge...

St Stephen’s vicar ‘under strain’


The Revd Alan Franks, vicar of St Stephen’s, is said to be ‘a broken man’ and is holding talks with the Bishop of Felpersham over the future of his ministry, according to Church sources.
‘Alan feels he simply cannot connect with his flock on a spiritual level,’ said a close colleague. ‘He still regrets his failure, as he sees it, to counsel Rob Titchener. And he was very hurt about being virtually excluded from Caroline Sterling’s funeral last year, though he understood, her being an atheist and everything.
‘With Nic Grundy’s tragic death, Alan thought he was finally getting through to Will and was helping the family. But now Will is saying he won’t go to the funeral because he won’t believe a word of Alan’s sermon.’
Friends say that the Revd Franks is even doubting his vocation and may give up his ministry. ‘Alan is at rock bottom,’ his colleague said. ‘It’s only the success of the homeless shelter at The Elms that’s keeping him going, but there’s trouble there too. Clients have said they will stop going if Pat Archer serves them any more lentil bake. They say they’d rather be out on the snowy streets. It’s very sad.’

Your week in the stars


What does fate have in store for readers in the week ahead? Our resident astrologer Janet Planet reveals all…

Taurus

Competitive Bulls who wear uniform to work will have fun this week, as Sport Relief prompts you to increase your activity. In fact, you’ll find it hard to stop banging on about how user-friendly the app is and how it’s such a good cause. Just beware you don’t spend so much time focusing on your step count that you ignore the massive hints about an attempted murder that people keep giving you.    

Cancer

A career change is in the offing, and anything involving livestock – especially pigs – is likely to be lucky for you. Just be careful others do not take advantage of your good nature for their own ends. Close family members have a habit of stitching you up and getting away with it. Be strong, Cancerians!

Libra

Librans need to show resilience now, especially if you are involved in a wellbeing-related business as Jupiter, the planet of health, is in retrograde. Sadly, problems will not go away just because you put them behind a wall paid for by your father. You will need to bring all your spiritual resources to bear if your wealth planet is not to disappear completely into Uranus.  


The Trials of …. Alistair Lloyd


In the latest chapter of our passionate Spring saga, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our hero is plunged into despair – but can he fight to win back the woman he loves?

Alistair chuckled quietly to himself as he entered the riding school. It really was quite amusing, that joke Anisha had made, asking the farmer if it was this udder, or the other udder, on that Friesian heifer! I must tell Shula, he thought… but then he saw her, barking instructions at young Anton as he trotted round the ring. She wore that disappointed frown, the look he knew so well. If only he hadn’t been such a wet blanket about her plan to rehabilitate horses on Goa! No wonder it had been winceyette jimjams on and lights out at 9pm ever since. Alistair sighed. Shula could be a bit eggy, but he was fond of her in his way. And what he had planned for the evening might cheer the old girl up a bit….

*

By six o’clock, Alistair was quite looking forward to the evening ahead. It was a shame they would miss Shetland at 9pm but there was always catch-up... He was just fiddling with the remote to set a reminder when he heard Shula clump downstairs. ‘Alistair, you naughty vet!’ she breathed. ‘What are you doing? Is it a film to get us… in the mood?’ Dismayed, he turned round. Shula was wearing fluffy mules and a shiny beige dressing-gown thing – not very practical at all. ‘Oh – no…’ he stammered. ‘I mean… you look very glam darling. But we don’t need a film to show us what to do, do we?’ This was going well. Shula was positively purring as he led her masterfully into the kitchen. ‘Why, Alistair… the kitchen? Oooh… where do you want me? Over the Aga?’  ‘Not yet, not yet,’ he said, thrusting a pestle and mortar at her. ‘You’ve got to grind the spices first. Look, the recipe for the Goan curry’s just here, in the book Caroline gave you. I thought we could cook it together…’
Suddenly, there was a strangled scream and Shula whirled out of the kitchen, lobbing a block of tamarind at his head as she went. Alistair slumped into a chair. Where had he gone wrong this time?....

*

The following evening, Alistair still felt numb. Shula had left him – just like that, not even taking her phone or the tailormade hunt master’s coat he’d bought her. He was sitting listlessly, catching up with Shetland, when there was a knock at the door. He leapt up. Was it Anisha with the results of the biopsy on that Boxer they were worried about? But it was Kenton who stood there, looking sheepish. ‘Hey, mate,’ he said. ‘My twin sis has come to stay at the Bull for a bit. She says she’s sorry, but she needs some time and a few clean pairs of pants. Can I come in?’
Alistair stood aside wordlessly as Kenton bounded up the stairs uninvited. ‘Is this her drawers drawer?’ he shouted down to Alistair, who would normally have smiled at such a clever pun. ‘Leave it – I’ll do it!’ he said. The thought of Kenton bundling Shula’s things into a bag without folding them nicely made him uncomfortable. But he was too late. Kenton was holding aloft a handful of Shula’s sturdy full-leg briefs. ‘Blimey, mate – what do you buy the poor girl for Valentine’s Day?’ Alistair was mildly offended. ‘Oh well, you know, Shula and I, at our age..’ But Kenton was looking at him with a pitying smile. ‘Oh, mate, mate…’ he said.

To be continued….