Vicar promises a ‘radical Nativity’ this Christmas
The Rev Alan Franks, vicar of St Stephen’s, has announced a ‘contemporary and bold reworking’ of the traditional Nativity play in Ambridge this year.
‘Instead of children dressing up in tea towels, and Shula bringing that dreadful donkey, we’re going to have real Ambridge residents playing the Holy Family,’ he said.
‘Eddie and Clarrie Grundy will be a homeless couple, looking for somewhere to sleep over Christmas, leading Eddie’s father Joe, 94, on his faithful old pony Bartleby.
‘We’ve got Kathy Perks as the innkeeper, turning them out of Grey Gables on Christmas Eve to make room for the three kings from the East, played by Justin Elliott and his two Polish oligarch friends, Ignazio and Wojciech. And of course Hazel Woolley was born to play King Herod.
‘As there is no room for the Grundys anywhere, churchgoers will find them on Christmas Day in Bartleby’s old stable at Keeper’s Cottage, led there by a cabbage over the door (kindly donated by Ian at Grey Gables).
‘I’m sure this will shake Ambridge out of its cosy Christmas complacency,’ said Rev Franks. ‘Of course, no one will actually offer the Grundys an affordable home, but Bishop Andrew will be delighted at my radical approach. We might even get on Midlands Today.’
Police service goes high-tech
Borsetshire’s Rural Crime Unit (PC Harrison Burns) unveiled a new high-tech weapon in the fight against crime this week, as yet another Ambridge home fell victim to burglary.
‘We’re going to be swapping our notebooks and pens for tablets,’ PC Burns announced. ‘It’s just as well, because Fallon writes little love letters all over my crime reports. Look, here’s one she scribbled on my notes on the theft of Ed Grundy’s cattle. It’s got hearts and… oh, maybe not look at that one. Oops! Censored!
‘Anyway, I’ll soon be able to issue crime numbers on the spot, which might help victims of burglary like Caroline and Oliver Sterling at Grange Farm,’ he said. ‘Frankly, that’s about all I can do. Forensics aren’t likely to find anything and whoever put graffiti all over their walls didn’t even have the decency to sign their name. Criminals, eh. What are they like?
‘Our hands are tied – which funnily enough, is one of the little games Fallon and I like to play…. ‘(That’s more than enough policing. Ed.)
The Trials of Ruth Archer
In chapter 4 of our exclusive Autumn serial, by award-winning romantic novelist Lavinia Catwater, our heroine looks deep into her heart for answers…
With a heavy sigh, Ruth ended her phone call and headed to the yard, where David was scraping muck. He was concentrating, his tongue stuck out, just like the home movies Jill loved to show of him playing with his toy farm as a boy. ‘David – I’ve just paid the bills me mam ran up at Marvin House. You know, eye tests, chiropody, hair dressing and that,’ she said, her voice breaking.
‘Well, they turned out to be a waste of money, didn’t they love?’ David said cheerily – then stopped as he saw his wife’s stricken face.
‘I’m so sorry Ruth,’ he said, drawing her towards him with a large, muck-covered paw. ‘Thoughtless of me. But it’s time to think of the future. How much of Heather’s money have you spent? Because Pip’s going to need a heap to pay for her share-farming with Adam …’
Suddenly, the yard swam in front of Ruth’s eyes. Share-farming with Adam? ‘But… I thought Pip was going to a swanky new job in Brazil!’ she gasped.
‘Good Lord love, how long have you been in Prudhoe?’ David shook his head and chuckled. ‘No, silly, she’s going to graze ewe hoggs and farm 150 store cattle with Adam. Didn’t we tell you?’
‘I suppose… well, it would have been nice to be in on the discussion!’ Ruth snapped, stalking off into the house, her anger hiding her deep sense of sorrow that yet again, she was a stranger in her own home…
‘Yes Rex, if you want to do up this old place for your goose processing, you go right ahead!’ Ruth tossed her head, with its short, tousled crop, and stamped her Wellington boot on the rough floor of Hollowtree Barn. It felt good to make a decision for once.
‘Wow, Ruth, I never knew you could be so assertive!’ said Rex, his hazel eyes dancing appreciatively. ‘Don’t you even need to ask David?’
‘Ask him? What for!’ Ruth’s laugh sounded convincing, even to her.
‘Oh yes, of course. You two are so close; you think as one, so you don’t need to ask,’ said Rex ruefully. ‘I wish me and Tobes were like that. He’s always promising stuff we can’t deliver.’
‘Ah well, you can’t bluff your way in farming,’ said Ruth sagely. But her defiant mood was suddenly as dead as Rex’s geese would soon be. If only this handsome young man knew the truth: no one seemed to need her any more. And when Jill returned to Brookfield on Sunday, David wouldn’t even notice whether she was there or not.
Thoughtfully, she brushed a wisp of straw off Rex’s rugby-shirted shoulder and told herself not to wonder if it would be a good place to cry on…
In the marquee at Lower Loxley, Dan’s 21st birthday party was in full swing. Ruth sat at an empty table, swigging neat gin from the tankard she’d so carefully chosen as Dan’s gift. Now, like her, it lay discarded and ignored. On the dance floor, Alan, Jim, Jenny and Lily were dancing Gangnam-style, but the ridiculous sight couldn’t even make her smile. In the corner, David had his back to her, talking to Phoebe, whose stunning up-do was nodding as she explained something earnestly to him and Brian. The dry-cleaning ticket was still attached to David’s suit, but Ruth was past caring. After all, her own red dress had never quite recovered from that New Year’s Eve calving emergency in 1989.
What was it Kenton had said, as he proudly came to repay the first 50p of the £26,000 he owed them? ‘David is a rotter and a chiz, as any fule kno!’ he’d said. ‘He always gets what he wants…’
‘Penny for them?’ Usha sat down next to her. In a clever nod to east vs west, she had teamed a gold sari with a Country Casuals cardigan. ‘Oh Usha, I feel so stuck on the outside of things,’ Ruth wailed. ‘I’m not sure David knows who I am any more, or even if we’re still right for each other. And I’m the only woman in Ambridge Lynda hasn’t asked to be in Calendar Girls! What can I do?’
To be continued…
Adam Macy of Home Farm and Pip Archer of Brookfield are delighted to announce their engagement to share-farm Adam’s herbal leys with a herd of up to 150 store cattle. ‘We’re looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship,’ said Mr Macy. ‘Pip and I are both ambitious, hard-working, and in a privileged position where we can afford to set up new farming ventures, unlike poor Ed Grundy and those feckless Fairbrother boys.’
‘No couple likes to start off with a mountain of debt, so I’m lucky that Dad has promised me cash from Granny Heather’s legacy to pay for my share of the cows,’ said Miss Archer. ‘I’m so glad I walked out of my job in High Wycombe now. With my hoggetts, stubble turnips and now this wonderful new life with Adam I’m the happiest girl in the world!’
Dear Editor, please can you tack this next announcement on the end for free? And can you put it in smaller type so Charlie Thomas might miss it? He’s already worried that Justin Elliott might be about to sack him. Thanks, A. Macy.
Ian Craig and Adam Macy are delighted to announce that their wedding will take place on December 14. No, you tightwad. Pay separately. Ed.
SITUATION NOT WANTED
Talented, resourceful herd manager, skilled in managing teams, processes and budgets, experienced with all types of farm machinery and drainage systems (especially culverts). Definitely not looking for a job. Far too busy pursuing personal and family interests in Ambridge. Potential employers need not apply. Just back off, will you. R. Titchener, Blossom Hill Cottage.