Saturday, 17 October 2015

Helen calls the midwife, Ed calls the cops and Charlie calls the vet: a dramatic week in Ambridge

Spooky tales turn off the tourists

Hallowe’en plans at Lower Loxley were in disarray this week as owner Elizabeth Pargetter was forced to cancel a series of ‘Ghost Walks’ led by veteran local farmer Joe Grundy.‘All I asked was for Joe to dress up in a bedsheet with some chains and talcum powder make-up, and tell a few yarns about the Headless Maid of Madeley Cross and the Beast of Borchester Down,’ said Mrs Pargetter. ‘But he terrified children and adults alike with wild stories of anthrax poisoning, burning piles of corpses and Ed Grundy’s zombie herd of rustled bullocks, spreading death and disease through the county.‘We’ve already had DEFRA vets and Environmental Health officers on site, and the software engineers’ conference for next week has cancelled. It’s a disaster.’
Mr Grundy said he apologised if anyone was distressed by his talks.
‘But it’s all true enough,’ he protested.  ‘There was a dozen cattle down at Berrow Farm; Mike Tucker seen ’em. You mark my words, this affliction that’s hit them beasts is a judgment on that Charlie Thomas and his unnatural practices. It’ll be a plague of locusts and frogs by Christmas or I’ll eat Bartleby’s bridle.’


Cops get tough on Ambridge crime wave

Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) called a special press conference this week to draw attention to the spate of crime affecting local businesses.
‘We are of course aware of the poachers targeting the Borchester Land estate, and the recent theft of a herd of bullocks owned by Mr Ed Grundy,’ he said. ‘Our enquiries are ongoing. It was a shame the only witness, Kenton Archer, didn't actually see anything. But on Sunday I had a very good burger from the kebab van on the bypass that I’m sure had a piece of eartag in it. So we have a strong lead there.
‘But my focus this week is on crimes against retail design. My partner Fallon had come up with some lovely plans for her new café at Bridge Farm; it features mismatched furniture and china, fabric screens to create a series of cosy spaces, and a vintage kitchen. Delightful. But project manager Rob Titchener says it’s "a junk shop with added Earl Grey" and told her it’s got to be all clean lines and "branding".
She was so upset. One more step out of line from him, and I’ll be arresting him for harassment. Any questions?’

NEW SERIES: Call the Midwife

Inspired by the popular TV series, we ask local midwife Ellie Richards, of Borchester General, to answer readers’ questions:

Q I’m expecting my second baby – my first with my husband, who is a wonderful stepfather to my four-year-old son. Well, father, once he makes me sign the papers. Things are absolutely fine at home. Really, they are. I’m looking forward to the birth. Honestly. And I’m not anxious about anything. Not at all. And as for being abused: good Lord no. I don’t feel threatened or vulnerable in any way. So everything’s going to be fine, isn’t it? (Sorry, I have to end this email now; my husband will be home soon).  Helen T, Ambridge.

A Well Helen, in your situation, there are a couple of issues that might concern me. It’s never easy looking after a small child and a new baby; it’s a lot for a man to take on. But thank you for sending a picture of your husband. I say, he’s a dish, isn’t he? You’ve got nothing to worry about there. I’d have him as my screensaver if I weren’t so professional! So yes, I’d say you were in excellent hands, you lucky girl.
PS Does he have a brother?

Personal announcement

The Archer family of Brookfield would like to thank friends and family for their support and kindness following the loss of Ruth’s mother, Heather Pritchard. Thanks go to people who sent wreaths (even though Heather hated spending money on flowers) and to those who gave to her favourite stroke charity, especially the Grundy family who can’t really afford it. Thanks also to Pip, Heather’s granddaughter, who read beautifully at the service, and to the Craven Heifer, Prudhoe, for laying on a lovely spread. It was a fitting way to celebrate the life of a lady who loved a good laugh, even though her last year was full of pain, misery and loneliness (Ed, please cut this bit. My wife Ruth isn’t herself. Time to move on. David Archer.)

Autumn fiction special: The Trials of Phoebe Aldridge

Award-winning author Lavinia Catwater continues our new romantic saga. In Chapter Two, our teenaged heroine struggles between ambition and true love:

‘Oh, Alex!’ Phoebe sighed as her handsome boyfriend lifted her new T-shirt with its witty ‘Schrödinger's cat is Alive/Dead’ slogan. It was what everyone would be wearing at Oxford University, but Alex only seemed interested in what was under it. ‘I really have to go and finish my personal statement. You know, for applying to Oxford?’
‘But Phoebe, you’re so lovely and normal. What do you want with all those stuck-up overachievers?’ said Alex, nuzzling her neck in the way that always thrilled her. ‘I’d miss you so much – and you wouldn’t want to disappoint me, would you?’
He gave her the sad-puppy look she found irresistible. The thought he might leave her made her go cold with fear. Oh, why was she following this crazy Oxford dream, when Alex was her whole world? ‘Well, maybe a bit longer…’ she smiled, pulling his Top Gear duvet cover over them both…


Back at Home Farm, Phoebe bit moodily into her chicken sandwich. The memory of Alex’s urgent kisses was still warm. She knew she couldn’t live without him – and hadn’t he told her she wasn’t good enough to get into Oxford, anyway? Wouldn’t it be simplest to apply to Felpersham Uni? But then she remembered the words of her father Roy. ‘If Alex doesn’t support you, he’s not the boy for you!’ he had warned, expertly jamming on the handbrake to stop her hitting a tow-truck on her driving  lesson. Oh, why did she have to choose between the people she loved most?
‘Phoebe, Phoebe darling, just the person!’ Her mother Kate burst into the kitchen in a cloud of patchouli scent, shattering her train of thought. ‘How would you like to come and work at my holistic retreat? We could design a job for you – customer service, typing, anything you like! Just put that disgusting sandwich down and talk to me, darling. Sweetheart – where are you going!’
But Phoebe had grabbed her phone and dashed out into the yard. Suddenly, her decision was as clear as one of Kate’s crystals. ‘Hello dad – I’ve put in my application!’ she told a delighted Roy. But even as they laughed together, she couldn’t ignore a nagging fear, deep in her heart. What would Alex say? To be continued….    

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I am writing to protest about the aggressive marketing tactics of local celebration poultry salesmen, the Fairbrothers and the Grundys. Even though it isn’t yet Hallowe’en I have been bombarded with leaflets and emails selling geese and turkeys. I am not interested in arguments about whose birds are looked after better, or in pictures of the producers’ cute grandchildren. I have no loyalty towards an old-established family supplier, or sympathy towards two young up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
This Christmas I will be going to Aldi in Felpersham for a four-bird roast and some of their delicious Wensleydale and cranberry cheese.

Yours faithfully
Gemma Hawkins (Mrs).


  1. Just brilliant! Thank you. Keep 'em coming, please.

  2. As above, totally brilliant! A joy

  3. I look forward to your insightful reporting every week. Keep 'em coming! 😄

  4. Thank you everyone - really kind of you to comment. It makes all that undercover reporting in Ambridge worthwhile!