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Strong but not so silent

Nell: David is in the living room practising being handsome.

Me: He is handsome.

Nell: He has found a spot of sunlight and is working on his strong silent look.

Me: It wasn’t very silent this morning.

Nell: I told those corgis. Sunday morning songs should be gentle but did they listen?

Me: Obviously not.

Nell: They were all wearing green feathered caps and carrying bows and arrows.

Me: I know.

Nell: Timothy fainted.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: He is always on edge at this time of year and he thought his day had come. It was lucky Malcolm had made some mulled wine for the choir. He’s sleeping it off now.

Me: It’s tough being a turkey.

Nell: Did you hear what they were singing?

Me: I liked it.

Nell: ‘ Robin Woof, Robin Woof riding in his clogs

Robin Woof, Robin Woof with his Merry Dogs

Feared by the bad, loved by the good

Robin Woof, Robin Woof, Robin Woof’

Me: It’s rather catchy, isn’t it?

Nell: Robin Woof doesn’t wear clogs. Who on earth wrote that?

Me: I couldn’t find another rhyme. I tried ‘riding through the fog’ but you can’t have one Merry Dog.

Nell: I might have known it was you.

Me: The second verse is better.

Nell: You mean ‘Robin Woof, Robin Woof riding on the beach

Robin Woof, Robin Woof hear those Beefies screech

Handsome and brave, strong as a moose

Robin Hoof, Robin Hoof, Robin Hoof’

Me: Dave loves it.

Nell: Strong as a moose? We live in England not Canada. We don’t have moose.

Me: Well, who is that in the red jacket and brown hat then?

Nell: Where?

Me: In the garden, talking to Knitwear Wolf.

Nell: Could you ask Malcolm to bring me a mulled wine please?

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Christmas is a time for Giving and Forgiving

Me: What are those three waiting for?

Nell: Tony and treats.

Me: Surely a visit from Tony is treat enough.

Nell: No dog refuses a treat, unless they are sick, or suspicious.

Me: Suspicious?

Nell: Beware of the Beefy bearing gifts.

Me: True.

Nell: I have been known to refuse a stale scone if thrown in anger.

Me: Or a wet mackerel.

Nell: Exactly. David struggles to refuse food, however, even from Beefies.

Me: I know. He’s in the kitchen now with three Beefies and a stack of Malcolm’s pancakes.

Nell: I beg your pardon. Did you say three Beefies are in our kitchen eating pancakes?

Me: Yes. They had an early morning rehearsal with Knitwear Wolf and are about to go for a fitting with The Cat.

Nell: This is outrageous.

Me: You knew they were auditioning to be part of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s Band of Baddies.

Nell: Band of Baddies? You’ll be telling me they sing next.

Me: They do. It’s not very tuneful. In fact it’s a bit screechy but they are putting their all into it.

Nell: I think I need a lie down.

Me: Gull is one of them and you know he is a good Beefy.

Nell: Yes, but what about the other two?

Me: You mean the two in the kitchen?

Nell: Are there others then?

Me: There might be. But there’s only one big one.

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: Rupert says it’s Christmas and a time for giving and forgiving.

Nell: Has he been on the mulled wine? Who is the big Beefy?

Me: Stephen Seagull.

Nell: Our arch enemy?

Me: What you don’t know, Nell, is that Stephen has always dreamt of being on stage. This is literally a dream come true.

Nell: Or my worst nightmare.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Poppy has had enough

Me: Poppy is in her Christmas palace and won’t come out.

Nell: She needs some quiet so David is guarding her.

Me: He was asleep the last time I checked.

Nell: He was up late rehearsing with his Merry Dogs.

Me: They were rather loud.

Nell: I can understand the corgis but the Whippets Institute?

Me: They were very merry.

Nell: I blame the mulled wine.

Me: I’m not surprised Poppy wants some peace.

Nell: Did you see that Beefy?

Me: Which one?

Nell: Dressed in black with long hair and a beard.

Me: Not David’s wig again?

Nell: Probably. It wants to be in the pantomime.

Me: What?

Nell: Even produced credentials.

Me: Gosh. What did they say?

Nell: ‘This is a very bad Beefy.’

Me: Well, we all know that.

Nell: Signed by Stephen Seagull.

Me: He’ll want to be in it next.

Nell: He already does. There is a huge argument going on about pantomimes being for everyone, good and bad.

Me: Goodness me. No wonder Poppy has had enough.

Nell: Malcolm is trying to be the voice of reason.

Me: Bless him.

Nell: He thinks this may be a way of uniting everyone.

Me: Good luck with that.

Nell: In the end it comes down to Knitwear Wolf.

Me: Why?

Nell: He is playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. Can he cope with a band of Beefies?

Me: If anyone can, he can.

Nell: That’s what Charlie thinks.

Me: What about Gladys? She’s directing too.

Nell: Gladys says it adds an element of risk and spontaneity.

Me: The sword fights are certainly going to be risky.

Nell: No swords allowed. Only baguettes and possibly mackerel.

Me: How about a green salad?

Nell: What are you talking about? You can’t fight with lettuce.

Me: Of course not. Sorry.

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Good grief

Nell: If that’s another Merry Dog at the front door tell it to go away.

Me: But it’s wearing a feathered hat.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: It says it always wanted to be in a pantomime and when it read about Robin Woof it had to come here.

Nell: I told David not to do that interview with the Daily Growl.

Me: But it’s raining and it’s getting awfully wet.

Nell: Send it into the kitchen for tea and shortbread with the others then. Malcolm just made a fresh batch.

Me: Malcolm wears his crown all the time now.

Nell: Mutley is the same with his false tummy. It keeps him warm.

Me: We need to warn The Cat about the growing number of Merry Dogs.

Nell: I would advise you to steer clear at the moment. There was a falling out with Gladys over Harriet’s costume.

Me: She’s playing Will Scarlet so it should be a simple tunic.

Nell: We are talking about The Cat here. Simple is not part of its vocabulary.

Me: No. So what is the costume?

Nell: A sequinned jumpsuit in vivid scarlet with a matching hat and feather boa.

Me: Not something an outlaw would normally wear.

Nell: No.

Me: On the other hand it is a pantomime, Nell,

Nell: True and Gladys is usually partial to a feather boa.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Well, I’m sure Charlie will sort it out.

Me: Charlie?

Nell: Yes. He’s agreed to help Gladys.

Me: He’ll be wonderful at smoothing ruffled feathers. See what I did there?

Nell: What on earth is a rabbit doing at the front door? Please don’t tell me it’s wearing a feathered hat.

Me: It is and it looks ever so merry.

Nell: But it isn’t even a dog.

Me: I know. Sorry.

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Gladys makes a reckless decision

Me: Harriet is a bit of a ladette on the quiet isn’t she?

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: She looks sweet and delicate but actually she’s feisty and daring. Always first in the sea and running off with the ball.

Nell: Have you been talking to Gladys?

Me: No. Why?

Nell: She has made some unusual and quite frankly reckless decisions on the casting of ‘Robin Woof and his Merry Dogs’.

Me: Has she?

Nell: Some of the Merry Dogs aren’t even dogs.

Me: That is a little reckless.

Nell: Nobody could mistake either Henry, or Horst for a dog if they tried.

Me: I think they will be brilliant. They are such team players.

Nell: She wants Harriet to play Will Scarlet.

Me: Robin Woof’s right hand man?

Nell: Exactly. And Knitwear Wolf is the bad Sheriff of Nottingham when everyone knows he is a good wolf.

Me: But that’s part of the fun, Nell. Playing against type. Who are the other baddies?

Nell: Unsurprisingly Poppy is Guy of Gisbourne.

Me: She loves a good sword fight.

Nell: Yes. But choosing Malcolm as bad King John.

Me: Malcolm?

Nell: You couldn’t find a politer flamingo.

Me: He will love it.

Nell: He is delighted. He’s with The Cat now trying on crowns.

Me: What about Little John?

Nell: Alejandro. He’s large enough I suppose.

Me: I thought it would be Dave.

Nell: No. David has been chosen to play Robin Woof.

Me: Oh my darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy. Finally playing the leading role.

Nell: Yes, and Sally is his Maid Marian.

Me: All his dreams have come true.

Nell: Just like mine did yesterday.

Me: Exactly. I feel quite emotional.

Nell: There’s no time for emotions. You and I are writing the script.

Me: Gosh. Sorry.

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Cuddles for Charlie

Me: You’re smiling.

Nell: I know.

Me: And so is Charlie. What’s going on?

Nell: Well, you know Charlie has been getting special therapy?

Me: Yes. You said you were leaving no stone unturned.

Nell: I never mentioned stones. I said we were going to try anything and everything to give him as much time as we could.

Me: That’s what I meant.

Nell: The heart is a complex thing.

Me: Yes, in so many ways.

Nell: And since we heard that Charlie had congestive heart failure we have been taking one day at a time and enjoying each moment left to us.

Me: I know. So why are you smiling?

Nell: We went to see Charlie’s vet.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The one who said he might not make it through the summer and definitely wouldn’t make Christmas.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And the thing is. The truly wonderful thing is that Charlie no longer has any congestion around his heart so he is no longer in congestive heart failure.

Me: You mean he’s out of danger?

Nell: All his pulses are strong. He still has an arrhythmia but unless he has a prolonged intense spasm she doubts it will kill him.

Me: Oh my goodness Nell. That’s wonderful news.

Nell: Yes, it is.

Me: I’m in tears. Our darling Charlie.

Nell: So now we can celebrate his 8th birthday.

Me: It’s his birthday?

Nell: It was yesterday but we wanted to wait.

Me: Does Poppy know?

Nell: Yes, she is baking a cake as we speak. A lemon drizzle. His favourite. David is doing the icing.

Me: Where is Charlie? I need to cuddle him right now.

Nell: You will have to join the queue. Since we told everyone at Morning Thoughts the cuddles haven’t stopped.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Dave is exhausted

Nell: Where is David?

Me: On my bed asleep. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: But it’s time for Morning Thoughts.

Me: I know. It’s just that yesterday’s excitement wore him out.

Nell: Running around all evening throwing cushions in the air and squealing.

Me: It was happy singing.

Nell: Talking of happy singing did you enjoy this morning’s carol concert?

Me: It was lovely and most unexpected.

Nell: Myfanwy and the Welsh corgi choir insisted. Fortunately the Whippets Institute didn’t need their minibus.

Me: Good.

Nell: They are enjoying mulled wine and hot mince pies as we speak.

Me: Isn’t it rather early for mulled wine?

Nell: Corgis thrive on it. Apparently it lubricates the vocal chords.

Me: Really?

Nell: Although I must say it doesn’t do much for the balance. I found an inebriated corgi in the Christmas tree.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Did you notice their green and red scarves?

Me: I did.

Nell: Part of Knitwear Wolf’s Christmas Collection. Attractive and warm.

Me: Rather like Knitwear Wolf himself then.

Nell: Rupert certainly has his admirers.

Me: Is Myfanwy still smitten?

Nell: Completely. He has no idea, you know. I’ve told her she is wasting her time but she won’t listen.

Me: Love is a powerful emotion.

Nell: I think it’s just a crush. It will pass. What on earth is he doing now?

Me: Who?

Nell: Mutley. He just walked past dressed as a monk.

Me: Gosh. He’s certainly put on an awful lot of weight since I went away and he’s losing his hair.

Nell: That’s not a real tummy and he’s wearing a wig.

Me: Did you know Mutley was interested in entering the church?

Nell: It’s a costume. Mutley must be auditioning for Friar Tuck. Auditions are today.

Me: Oh, I see. Sorry.

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Coming home

Me: What beautiful photos, Nell.

Nell: Yes. I thought you would like them.

Me: Our favourite beach.

Nell: Yes. It’s waiting for you.

Me: Yes. How is everyone?

Nell: In one word. Overexcited.

Me: Bless them.

Nell: David had three dippy eggs with soldiers for breakfast and ate Harriet’s second egg by mistake.

Me: It’s easily done.

Nell: Harriet was annoyed and refused to pass the marmalade so he had to have plain buttered toast.

Me: My poor Big Brave Beautiful Boy. He loves his marmalade.

Nell: When the puppies are like this the only solution is Keeping Busy.

Me: Yes.

Nell: So I’ve sent David to collect wood for the fire and Harriet is helping The Cat with the Christmas decorations.

Me: Good idea. Has Knitwear Wolf delivered the Sunday papers yet?

Nell: Yes. He’s wearing a delightful Aran sweater today knitted by a rather enterprising Irish Wolfhound.

Me: I didn’t know they could knit.

Nell: Are you speaking for all Irish Wolfhounds now?

Me: No. It’s just that they are such big animals.

Nell: Alejandro is a big animal but he is extremely light on his hooves. You should have seen he and Gladys dancing to ‘Feliz Navidad’ yesterday. It was remarkable.

Me: I can only imagine.

Nell: Anyway Rory is a skilled knitter. In fact I’ve asked him to knit Charlie a sweater for Christmas.

Me: How is Charlie?

Nell: He is doing extremely well. They didn’t think he would last until Christmas and here he is still enjoying life.

Me: That makes me happy.

Nell: Do you know what makes me happy?

Me: Earl Grey?

Nell: No. Kev and I will be collecting you from the station this afternoon.

Me: You’ve really missed me.

Nell: Just get yourself packed and on that train.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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It’s time to come home now

Me: Why do I have the feeling I’ve done something wrong?

Nell: Does St. Nicholas Day ring any bells?

Me: Oh no. It was yesterday. I forgot.

Nell: You did.

Me: Did you put your boots out?

Nell: We did.

Me: Did you clean them beforehand?

Nell: We did.

Me: Were you expecting to find presents in them in the morning?

Nell: We were.

Me: And were they empty?

Nell: No.

Me: No?

Nell: As soon as I realised you had forgotten I had an emergency meeting with Poppy, Malcolm and The Cat and we decided bacon was the answer.

Me: It usually is, although bacon in your boots might be a bit greasy.

Nell: Credit us with a little sense, please. Each animal received a note in their boots telling them to collect their present from the kitchen.

Me: Clever.

Nell: Poppy and Malcolm were waiting in their chefs outfits with bacon sandwiches and pots of tea while the Welsh corgi choir sang carols and The Cat distributed sequinned crowns.

Me: What about the non-bacon eaters?

Nell: Freshly shelled prawns, or a selection of garden leaves. We covered all bases.

Me: You saved the day.

Nell: There was a brief altercation with a bombastic Beefy in a bowler hat but it was dealt with swiftly.

Me: What did it do?

Nell: It joined the queue for bacon sandwiches with a forged note and a wet mackerel.

Me: What a cheek.

Nell: Poppy was having none of it. She said: ‘Go back to where you came from Mr Beefy. And take your smelly mackerel with you.’

Me: Good for Poppy.

Nell: It’s time for you to come home now.

Me: I will be back tomorrow afternoon. Will you be collecting me?

Nell: You know I will.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Who stole the lime?

Nell: How is everything in Buckinghamshire?

Me: I’m afraid there’s been another incident.

Nell: Don’t tell me. Naughty Nigel stole something.

Me: Well, somebody stole a lime from the fruit bowl.

Nell: That’s a silly thing to steal. Limes are sour and belong in a cocktail.

Me: Or a delicious key lime pie.

Nell: Anyway, did you find the culprit?

Me: We interviewed Naughty Nigel and Cousin Boo.

Nell: Boo is a black Labrador so he won’t have done it.

Me: Are you forgetting Dave?

Nell: David does things by mistake.

Me: They both denied it but then we found Nigel in the living room lying next to the lime

Nell: I knew it.

Me: He still denied it.

Nell: He would.

Me: Things were looking bad for Naughty Nigel when we heard laughing.

Nell: Laughing?

Me: It was more of a snigger, actually.

Nell: I don’t approve of sniggering. If you want to laugh do it openly, not secretly behind your paw.

Me: We looked to see who was sniggering and found Xav stretched out behind Nigel with a satisfied smile on his face.

Nell: Xav?

Me: Scarlett’s cat.

Nell: The cat did it. How many times have we Labradors told you this? We dogs are innocent. It is always the cat.

Me: I know you say that, Nell, but sometimes it isn’t.

Nell: Well, I hope someone had a strong word with that animal.

Me: Boo tried reasoning but Xav didn’t care and Nigel tried giving him a hard stare but it didn’t work.

Nell: They need Poppy.

Me: I don’t think threatening someone with a sword is a good idea, Nell.

Nell: I’m not talking about swords. Poppy is mistress of the Hard Stare. It’s terrifying.

Me: I still don’t think it would work on Xav. Sorry.