Sunday, 23 July 2017

Protests, farm partnerships and plans for Caroline – feelings run high in Ambridge

Beware of radicals, residents warned

The Borsetshire branch of Prevent, the Government’s anti-extremism programme, has warned Ambridge residents to look out for signs of family members becoming radicalised.
The unprecedented statement came amid growing tensions about the closure of the Happy Friends Community Café in Borchester to make way for a luxury restaurant.
‘We have received credible evidence that anti-capitalism militants are planning direct action against Les Soeurs Heureuses and its owners, Miriam and Lulu Duxford,’ a Prevent officer told a hastily convened press conference.
‘We know there is already a cell of activists (Kirsty Miller) in Ambridge and believe she may be recruiting more,’ the officer said. ‘We ask local people to be vigilant. Symptoms of radicalisation can include banging on about social injustice, preaching to friends and expressing disapproval of others’ lifestyle choices.
‘Look out too for telltale statements, such as: “There’s more to life than fresh coffee and lemon drizzle,” or “I can’t help it if the Brookfield cake tin is empty”.
This is an extremely alarming symptom. If you hear anyone say this in Ambridge, contact our hotline immediately, although it may already be too late.’

Food producers slam ‘unfair’ awards

Borsetshire food and drink producers have made an official complaint about the judging at this year’s Food & Drink Awards, the Ambridge Observer can reveal. 
‘It seems very suspicious to us,’ said Poppy Porrett of Penny Hassett Popcorn. (are you sure? Ed).
‘The awards are supposed to be for the whole of Borsetshire, yet three of the award-winners – Helen Archer, the Bull and Grey Gables – are in Ambridge. What are the odds of such a small village doing so well?’ said Ms Porrett. ‘It’s no coincidence that Justin Elliott, chairman of the sponsors Damara Capital, lives in Ambridge.’
A spokesperson for Mr Elliott denied the claims. ‘The judging is completely independent and fair,’ she said. ‘Any suggestion that Mr Elliott is planning to turn Ambridge into the foodie capital of the West Midlands, to boost demand for his new housing development, will be referred to our lawyers.’

Thanks for Sterling support

Grey Gables owner Oliver Sterling has thanked the local community for their ‘touching friendship and support’ since the sudden death of his wife Caroline.
Mr Sterling returned to Ambridge this week following a private cremation service in Italy, where he and Caroline were living.
‘We are planning a celebration of Caroline's life at Grey Gables, where we were married,’ said Mr Sterling. ‘She was a committed atheist, so Alan Franks has promised not to mention God. Many people have asked to take part, to pay their respects. Shula and I were especially touched by the Button sisters’ offer to stage ‘Circle of Life’ from The Lion King, featuring Lynda’s llamas. Caroline would have loved it, but health and safety is an issue.
‘And Tommy Croker’s grandson says he’ll get the band back together to do ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ from Hairspray. It’s going to be a lovely event. Such a shame Caroline will miss it – although I am keeping her close to me, in this rucksack.’        

Business special: Family Farm Partnerships

Giving every family member an equal voice in the running of your farm is an increasingly popular way of ensuring a smooth succession for the business.

The Aldridge family of Home Farm recently set up their own Family Farm Partnership Agreement, and kindly let the Ambridge Observer report on their first meeting:

Jennifer Aldridge: Now come along everyone, these cheese straws won’t eat themselves!
Kate Madikane: Are they vegan?
Brian Aldridge: This isn’t a cocktail party! We’re here to discuss buying a forage harvester. Ruth – you’re here as young Ruairi’s attorney. What do you think?
Ruth Archer: I’m no pushover Brian! Ruairi doesn’t like cheese straws and you can’t expect me to roll over and say he does!
Adam Macy: Look, have you read my presentation? The case for a new forage harvester is very strong.
Alice Carter: Maybe, but you’re rubbish at Power Point, Adam! No one uses that lame ‘blue wave’ template any more.
Jennifer: Oh, I don’t know, it’s rather sweet. If only you hadn’t covered it up with all those figures, darling.
Brian: This is ridiculous. Let’s put it to a vote. I’m against. It’s much too expensive. I take it that’s unanimous?
Adam: No way! I’m not voting against my own idea! I’m in favour.
Kate: Whatevs… I’ve got Shamanic Cleansing with the W.I. at 3.
Alice: I’m with you, Dad – we should be spending the money on more drones. Have you seen my new brochure?
Brian: Thanks Alice. What about you Ruth?
Ruth: Ruiairi’s voting against too Brian, but I’m warning you – you won’t get it all your own way. Especially if you don’t come up with better snacks.
Jennifer: Oh Ruth, how could you?

Your week in the stars

Local astrologer Janet Planet reveals what fate has in store for Ambridge residents this week…


Single Aquarians are finding that fate has a way of tearing up your dating spreadsheet and whisking you off your feet! Romance with an international dimension is in the air, and soon you won’t be lost for words as true love can break down language barriers (even between Borsetshire and Bulgaria).


It’s all about birds for lucky Cancerians this week, and we don’t just mean the feathered variety! You may have high hopes for a sizzling new relationship with a feisty Leo, but don’t count your chickens (or goslings) when it comes to long-term romance.


Feisty, independent lady Leos are slow to let love into their lives, but it seems someone has got under your skin and will run away with your heart if you let him. Will you be a loyal lion or will he hear you roar? Only time will tell…


Financial matters will weigh heavy on the minds of Sagittarians this week.  Beware of people who appear to have your best interests at heart. They may flatter you that you are a bloodstock expert and promise you the earth, but don’t be tempted to sell your cottage and give them the proceeds to invest.  No, look love, this astrology business is rubbish, but really, please don’t do it.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madam,

I’m writing to protest in the strongest possible terms about the opening of the Duxford Sisters’ new restaurant, Les Soeurs Heureuses. It makes me angry and ashamed to think they can charge £20 for a bowl of tomato soup when there are people queuing up at food banks all over Ambridge. And the waste! I’ve heard they cook ten meals for every one they serve, and throw away that aren’t absolutely perfect. No wonder they have to charge £20 for a bowl of tomato soup. And those sisters are so arrogant and self-obsessed! Have they no idea that everyone I know in Ambridge has to make £20 feed a family of six for a month? And they have the nerve to charge £20 for a bowl of tomato soup! And don’t get me started on celebrities. I really must…. (continues for 94 pages).

Yours furiously,

Mrs Jill Archer, Ambridge.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Shock overshadows a birthday surprise and a foodie prize – an emotional week in Ambridge

Celebrity chefs ‘anxious’ about Ambridge opening

Miriam and Lulu Duxford have requested bodyguards to protect them when they open the Ambridge fete next month, the Ambridge Observer can exclusively reveal.
The celebrity chefs are said to be concerned about possible protests against the opening of their flagship restaurant, Les Soeurs Heureuses, in Borchester. 
‘We have heard that there are food activists in Ambridge who will do anything to stop Mimi and Lulu,’ said a spokesperson. ‘But the girls are so brave. Nothing will spoil their dream of bringing hand-dived Québecois scallops with haggis foam to the people of Borsetshire.’
Ambridge residents Kirsty Miller and Jill Archer volunteer at the Happy Friends Café, which currently occupies the restaurant site. They said they ‘have no plans’ to organise any protest action at the fete. 
‘The sisters are not welcome in Ambridge, but we are completely opposed to violence,’ said Mrs Archer. ‘Though I would advise them not to wear their fancy designer outfits. It would be such a shame if someone mixed up ‘Dunk the Vicar’ and ‘Dunk the Duxfords’.
But not everyone in Ambridge is opposed to a high-end restaurant taking the place of a pop-up kitchen that relies on food donations.  
‘I know that the Duxford sisters believe in snouts-in-the-trough eating, and so do I,’ said Mr Brian Aldridge. (Surely, nose-to-tail eating? Ed). ‘I’m going to their opening night gala, even if Jill Archer is stretched out on the red carpet and I have to step over her.’  

Bridge Farm stars at Food and Drink Awards

Helen Archer carried off the top prize at the Borsetshire Food & Drink Awards for the second year running, as Bridge Farm’s Borsetshire Blue cheese won the ‘Best Artisan Product’ category.
In a moving speech, Ms Archer said: ‘I thought it was bad enough not being here to collect the award last year, because I was in prison charged with attempted murder.
‘Little did I think that my brother Tom would try to ruin my day this year by banging on about his fermented foods (only joking, Tom!) But this is my award – be quiet, Tom – and I’d just like to thank – I’m warning you, Tom – all the judges and of course our wonderful customers! – Shut UP Tom or I’ll stab you with this ceremonial cheese knife – oops, oh, sorry. Thank you.’

Holiday special: Handy Bulgarian Phrasebook

It’s that time of year again, when Ambridge is overrun with immigrants (surely, welcomes seasonal workers from the EU? Ed.)  Reader Roy Tucker has contacted the Ambridge Observer for tips on how to break the ice and get to know our visitors better – especially Lexi, from near Sofia. We hear you, Roy! Here are some useful phrases:

• Romanian, Bulgarian – they’re the same, aren’t they?

Rumŭnski, bŭlgarski, te sa edni i sŭshti, nali?

• I am not a racist, I just don’t like foreign people.

Az ne sŭm rasist, prosto ne kharesvam chuzhdestrannite khora

• Can I buy you a drink, even though I voted Brexit?

Moga li da vi kupya napitka, vŭpreki che glasuvakh Breksit?

• I would like to take control of your borders.

Bikh iskal da poema kontrola nad vashite granitsi.

Ask Auntie Satya

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

Dear Auntie Satya,

My boyfriend wants us to buy a house together, using his savings for the deposit. I said that wasn’t fair because I don’t have any savings, and that when we got divorced it wouldn’t be right if I took half the house. Then he said he wasn’t talking about getting married! Why am I confused? Fallon R.  

Dear Fallon,

In your longer letter you say you are worried that if you got married you would get divorced, like your mother and father. So it seems to me your young man is offering the perfect solution – no marriage! I would snap up his generous offer quicker than you can say ‘starter home’. You can always do extra housework if you feel guilty about not contributing.  

Dear Auntie Satya,

I had a wonderful 70th birthday, sharing a bubble bath with my fiancé, slipping into the silk French lingerie he gave me, and enjoying a small party with my loved ones. Even when my ex gave me a puppy, to try and drive a wedge between us, my fiancé said we should keep her because he has bigger balls and serves all the aces. And now he’s bought us tickets for Hair – you know, the musical where you all dance nude at the end? Is he too good to be true? Lilian B. 

Dear Lilian,

I’m afraid I cannot answer your question because your letter has put pictures in my head of such a nature that I am finding it impossible to concentrate. My apologies.

Dear Auntie Satya,

I was campaigning to get our cricket club captain sacked because he deceived the team over women players being allowed to play. Then my godmother died suddenly, and I started to think this wasn’t important any more so I told him our feud was over. But now I’m worried that I’ve ruined my reputation as a small-minded, misogynistic git. Did I do the right thing? Will G.

Dear Will,


Tributes pour in for ‘much-loved’ Ambridge lady

Ambridge residents were shocked this week to learn of the death of Caroline Sterling, a much-loved member of the community, who had lived in the village for nearly 40 years before moving to Italy with her husband Oliver in 2015.
The funeral will be held in Tuscany, but Ambridge will have the opportunity to commemorate her life at a service being arranged by her close friend, Shula Hebden-Lloyd.
Borsetshire Laureate Bert Fry has composed an ode for the occasion, which the Ambridge Observer is pleased to reproduce here as a tribute.

A poem for Caroline

And so farewell to Caroline Bone,
Or Sterling, as you were to become known.
The village of Ambridge will miss you sorely,
And no one even knew you were poorly.

Though your husband Oliver will mourn you bitterly,
You died in peace, at your home in Italy.
It was where you loved to drink wine and eat peaches,
A place where you both had found your niches.

Your life was always busy and full,
From your first job in Ambridge, at The Bull.
Jack Woolley could see that you were able,
And made you manager of Grey Gables.

You were never one for airs and graces,
Despite your connections in high places.
As Lord Netherborne’s niece, you didn’t fret
When you had to host Princess Margaret.

You were so happy as Oliver’s wife,
But not always lucky in love or life.
You had your passions, I recall,
It would take me too long to name them all.

There was Matthew the doctor, and Robin the vet,
And Cameron Fraser – one to forget,
And even – it’s rumoured –  Mr Brian Aldridge,
But that’s all water under the bridge.

You found true love with first husband Guy,
Though much too soon, Mr Pemberton died.
But never one to mope and moan,
You carried on bravely all alone

Until you met your soulmate Oliver,
And from then on life could not be jollier.
Not blessed with family of your own,
To foster children you opened your home.

And young Will Grundy always knew,
As his godmother, he could rely on you.
Eddie and Joe often tried your patience,
But you were always kind and gracious.

So Caroline, Ambridge loved you dear,
And we all wish you were still here.
And though you lie in foreign parts,
You will always live on in our hearts.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Fete chaos, cricket shocker and a farming mystery: an extraordinary week in Ambridge

Ambridge fete plans in disarray

The summer fete, a highlight of Ambridge life, hangs in the balance this week as it was revealed that no one has spoken to the Revd Alan Franks about ‘Dunk the Vicar’.
‘It ain’t good enough,’ said fete veteran Joe Grundy. ‘The annual ritual humiliation of a clergyman is our birthright. And just let ‘em try to fob us off with a bell ringer. We won’t stand for it.’
But new fete committee chair Fallon Rogers insisted there would be plenty for all the family to enjoy. Attractions already lined up include:

• Egg-sucking contest. Tom Archer takes on Justin Elliott and tries to teach him how to run his business.
• ‘Whack-a-cat’. A fun game featuring Hilda Ogden (Peggy Woolley’s new pussy) and a mallet.
• Coffee tasting challenge. Can YOU tell the difference between filter and instant? For the Jennifer Aldridge Cup.
• Cauliflower cheese* bar. Sponsored by the Happy Friends Café.
• Charity raffle. Help Fallon and Harrison buy their first home! Top prize: an invitation to their house-warming party.

*without cheese, unless more donors come forward.

Burns in fresh cricket controversy

Cricket captain Harrison Burns faced a revolt and vote of no confidence from the team this week as it emerged he had deceived the club over a potential merger with Darrington.
There was uproar during Ambridge’s match against Loxley Barrett on Sunday, when Will Grundy claimed that Mr Burns had ‘made up’ the threat to strengthen his case for admitting women to the Ambridge team.
‘When I asked Darrington’s captain, Chris Mills, he said he didn’t know nothing about no merger and hadn’t sent no message,’ said Mr Grundy. ‘Harrison lied to us at the EGM. And him a police officer too. He has to go!’
Mr Grundy’s claim backs up the Ambridge Observer’s exclusive in March, when our Freedom of Information request failed to produce the email Mr Burns said he had received from Darrington.
Challenged by club grandee Neil Carter, Mr Grundy denied his bid to oust the captain is connected to his opposition to women players.  
‘It’s true, if I were captain I’d have men on the pitch and women in the pavilion, making the teas, like what the Good Book says,’ he said. ‘But that’s got nothing to do with it. This is a matter of principle.’
Mr Burns said he had ‘no comment’ about the allegations. ‘All I have done has been for the good of Ambridge Cricket Club,’ he said. ‘I have strong support among the membership and I am confident the majority will back me. Or else I’ll be having a little look at the police computer and having a few quiet words here and there.’

Home searches are ‘routine’, residents assured

Borsetshire Police has told residents not to be alarmed about house-to-house enquiries that officers are carrying out in local villages.
‘To be honest, we are just helping out our colleague PC Burns in Ambridge,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘He told us his girlfriend was giving him a hard time about not looking for a house to buy, so we’re doing some of the legwork for him – knocking on doors of houses with nice curtains, asking the owners if they’re willing to sell. So far we’ve identified a pretty bungalow in Penny Hassett and a promising maisonette in Edgeley, and recovered a haul of stolen mobiles from an address in Darrington. It’s all part of the service.’

‘Farming strike’ puzzles villagers

Ambridge residents said they were ‘mystified’ this week as all farming activity in the village appeared to stop.
‘It was so strange,’ said one. ‘There were no cows being moved, milked or treated for mastitis; no crops sown, sprayed, harvested or even hovered over with a drone, and no sheep were dipped, drenched or dagged. We did hear that Johnny Phillips was down with the pigs, but we think that’s more to do with his social life.’
David Archer of Brookfield admitted that farming had ‘had to take a back seat’ in recent days. ‘Ruth and I are cooking our own meals, because my mother Jill is too busy working miracles with leftovers at the Happy Friends café,’ he said. ‘There’s just no time for the farm. We’re not too happy about it, I can tell you.’
Ed Grundy of Grange Farm said he was ‘very worried’ by the agricultural lull. ‘If I don’t get some tractor work soon there’ll be no trips to the carvery at the Torn Scrotum in the school holidays,’ he said.

New series: Business Insider

In the first of an occasional series, City finance expert Con R. Tyst opens his case file for Ambridge Observer readers.

‘One of the questions I’m asked most often in business is: “What is a Ponzi scheme”? Well, I always say, it’s something you want to steer clear of – unless you’re running it!
'To set one up, you need a chunk of money (say, cash you’ve stolen from a former partner), and a plausible-sounding investment that not many people understand (say, bloodstock breeding.) If it’s situated thousands of miles away – Costa Rica, for instance – so much the better.
‘You use your money to woo greedy investors and promise them a big investment return – (say, 12.5%). You can afford to pay them this because you haven’t invested their money at all – you’re giving them their own cash back! You can even use it to pay back some debts and make yourself look good – cool, huh?
‘Because your investors think they’re getting a great return, they’ll probably invest more, and invite their pals along too. You might want to host a swanky VIP investors’ reception at a hotel, and get a nice-but-dim aristo to host it. And that’s about it! You keep taking the money and paying some of it out – and by the time your investors start asking questions about where their capital is, you’re long gone (maybe not back to Costa Rica as that’s the first place they’ll look).’
‘So, a Ponzi scheme is really bad news for investors, and strictly against the law of course. But there will always be someone desperate enough to try it on. So remember guys – if it looks too good to be true – it probably is!’



• Item of sensitive personal apparel. Last worn on Loxley Barrett cricket field last Sunday. Brown and bristly. May be mistaken for a lavatory brush or a ferret.  Reward offered for discreet return. Neville Booth, Ambridge.

• Birth certificate. Hoping to surprise my fiancée for her birthday with a diamond for each year of her age (I think it’s 50-something) but she insists her birth certificate has gone missing! If you can help please contact Justin Elliott, Dower House.


• Sense of entitlement. Picked up in Oxford University. Labelled ‘Phoebe Aldridge, Ambridge.’ Keen to reunite it with its owner as we already have more than we can stand.