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A Secret Softy

Me: Why are you glaring at me like that?

Nell: David and I were having a gentle discussion about the day ahead and you disturbed us.

Me: I was just checking on him.

Nell: He is doing well. He had porridge for breakfast with Manuka honey and managed to keep it down.

Me: That’s a relief.

Nell: And now he is having a thoughtful chew on his new toy.

Me: Good.

Nell: The trick is to keep him calm.

Me: He might not stay calm, Nell, as the chimney sweep is arriving soon.

Nell: That’s most inconvenient.

Me: It has to be done.

Nell: David will have to join you upstairs then. But don’t fuss over him.

Me: Why not? You are.

Nell: I’m his aunt and he is unwell.

Me: You’re a Secret Softy. Admit it.

Nell: I am nothing of the kind. I am merely doing my duty. My nephew needs me.

Me: He’s looking a lot better, Nell. His coat is shiny again. It must be all the cuddles.

Nell: David enjoys attention and he’s certainly getting enough of it. Although the llamas are a little too demonstrative for my liking.

Me: Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Your other boy will be here soon.

Me: Not as soon as I thought.

Nell: Why? Isn’t Chris arriving on Friday?

Me: No. He had to change his flight to the 5th October because the government aren’t accepting visitors with mixed vaccinations until 4th October.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: So we won’t be seeing him until Wednesday week.

Nell: That’s not too much longer to wait.

Me: It isn’t and Dave should be completely well by then and able to go on walks.

Nell: Every bowl has a silver lining.

Me: Don’t you mean cloud?

Nell: No.

Me: Sorry.

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A Quiet Sunday

Me: Are you wearing slippers?

Nell: Of course I am. Where are yours?

Me: Upstairs.

Nell: Well, put them on quickly. We need a quiet house. Have you finished your porridge?

Me: I’m not really in a porridge mood.

Nell: It’s made with honey.

Me: I was hoping for bacon as it’s Sunday.

Nell: Don’t mention that word.

Me: Why?

Nell: David is on soft food and we’re all supporting him. Were you even listening to the new guidelines at Morning Thoughts?

Me: No. I was thinking how wonderful it was of Kev to sleep downstairs with you all so I could get a good night’s sleep.

Nell: Kev might need to go back to bed this afternoon as we had a very disturbed night with David coughing.

Me: Was Dave awfully sick?

Nell: I’m afraid he was but he likes his new toy.

Me: My poor darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Now, although there is a no dancing rule around David at the moment, couples can still practise elsewhere.

Me: Is Sunday Songs still going ahead?

Nell: Yes. With quiet songs. The Welsh Corgi Choir are fully informed and the llamas are wearing ballet shoes.

Me: Is there any chance of a roast dinner later?

Nell: No. We are saving that for next weekend when Chris is here.

Me: What about afternoon tea?

Nell: I’m afraid scones are a little too crumbly for David’s sensitive throat.

Me: Jam and cream are soft.

Nell: You can’t have jam and cream without a scone. Don’t be silly. David will be having a banana split. Ice cream is cool and soothing and bananas are nutritious.

Me: I don’t think Dave likes bananas.

Nell: He won’t know they’re there. Poppy is turning it into a milkshake. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Dave isn’t well

Nell: How is David? You’ve been gone for ages.

Me: I’m afraid it is kennel cough, Nell.

Nell: But we have all been vaccinated.

Me: Amy the Vet says it’s like Covid. You can still get it even if you have been vaccinated just not as badly.

Nell: How did he get it?

Me: Amy says kennel cough is everywhere at the moment. She is seeing so many dogs with it, even if they haven’t been in direct contact with other dogs.

Nell: That’s not good to hear. Well, you look completely exhausted.

Me: I am. Dave was retching all through the night. Every half hour. Poor Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Poppy told me. She decided to come downstairs. She said he slept in your bed.

Me: Yes. The little sleep he had.

Nell: The little sleep you all had. I think a quiet day is called for.

Me: Yes. I agree. Especially for Dave. The thing is, Nell, Amy says Dave must be on complete rest for the next 5 days so I’m afraid there can be no dancing.

Nell: Of course not. Rhubarb hasn’t even arrived from Canada yet and the couples are just starting their training so that’s no problem.

Me: What a relief. I thought he might have to drop out of the competition altogether.

Nell: Drop out? Never. Strictly Come Prancing without David Martin is not an option.

Me: Thank goodness.

Nell; Now, Manuel is going to make up a fresh bed for you and Poppy is bringing you a croissant to eat while you’re waiting.

Me: What about Dave?

Nell: David will be having scrambled eggs for breakfast with Manuka honey and water to drink.

Me: Perfect.

Nell: Then it’s back to bed for the both of you. No arguments.

Me; Yes. Sorry.

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Strange Mats

Me: Why are you looking at me like that? And what’s the matter with Dave?

Nell: There are strange mats in the living room.

Me: Yes, I know.

Nell: They are in the way.

Me: No, they aren’t.

Nell: We have to walk across them to get on and off our sofas.

Me: That’s the whole idea.

Nell: They weren’t there before.

Me: No, they are new.

Nell: David doesn’t trust them.

Me: Well, that’s really silly.

Nell: Mats are notoriously unreliable.

Me: Not these ones, Nell. They are actually there to stop you slipping on the floor.

Nell: Me?

Me: Yes. You slipped recently. Kev told me. So we talked to Chloe and she advised non slip mats in areas where you need to jump up.

Nell: Are you telling me these mats are here because of me?

Me: Yes. You are much stiffer on your legs now with your arthritis and Kev and I want to make you as safe and comfortable as we can.

Nell: The mats don’t really go with the red sofa.

Me: We don’t care, Nell. As long as you are protected.

Nell: That’s actually really sweet and thoughtful of you both. Thank you.

Me: It’s our pleasure.

Nell: Will you be taking the mats to the Strictly Come Prancing venue?

Me: I’m not sure that will be allowed, Nell.

Nell: Only the competition begins on Saturday and I have to sit on a chair.

Me: We will certainly talk to them about it.

Nell: I shall need a non slip mat outside my dressing room, too.

Me: Your dressing room is on the level. There’s no need to jump.

Nell: What if somebody bounces me? Jumps can happen when you least expect them.

Me: You can’t have non slip mats everywhere, Nell. Sorry.

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Gaining Perspective

Me: There’s really nothing like walking on the beach with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Looking out to sea makes you realise you’re just a small part of something so much bigger.

Nell: I’m not a small part. I’m head judge.

Me: Sometimes you need to gain perspective.

Nell: No, I don’t. My perspective is fine, thank you.

Me: Look at Harriet dancing on the beach. She doesn’t care anymore that Jim the Farm Dog has been partnered with Juanita.

Nell: Why would she? She’s been partnered with Beauregard who is one of the favourites.

Me: I thought Gladys and Count Bingo Flamingo were the favourites, along with Rita Pawreno and Manuel.

Nell: An octopus and a chihuahua. Not an obvious combination, although they both speak Spanish and are excessively flamboyant. I know who have to be the rank outsiders.

Me: Who?

Nell: Alejandro and Malcolm.

Me: Why can’t a flamingo dance with an alpaca? Count Bingo Flamingo is dancing with a Pomeranian.

Nell: Gladys is an experienced Pomeranian and Count Bingo is an extrovert. Malcolm is a shy and polite flamingo who shuns the spotlight.

Me: But Alejandro adores performing. I think they could surprise us all.

Nell: Well, I’m going to be open and fair in all my decisions which is not something I’m expecting from the other judges.

Me: Anton Du Bark will be fair.

Nell: Yes, but Princess is going to like everyone and Lionel King definitely isn’t.

Me: I can see him marking Beauregard down.

Nell: And Stephen Seagull up.

Me: Poppy will like that.

Nell: Kev is going to have his hands full.

Me: Kev?

Nell: Yes. He’s presenting the show with Henry and Horst. Do keep up.

Me: I didn’t know. Sorry.

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Soothe and Distract

Me: You’re looking awfully serious.

Nell: We are going to have to handle this very carefully.

Me: Handle what?

Nell: Tony’s fall.

Me: Our Tony? Tony the Postman?

Nell: Yes. Tony had a fall down at Bantham yesterday and will be off work all week.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: He hasn’t broken anything but he’s a little bruised and battered.

Me: That’s dreadful.

Nell: It could have been worse.

Me: Did you hear about it from Dorothy?

Nell: No. Dorothy was practising in Paignton with the Portuguese Podenco. Toby told Marvin on our WoofsApp group.

Me: But Marvin is in Canada.

Nell: I know that but he is still part of the Young Animal group. Although, why Naughty Nigel is still on there is completely beyond me.

Me: Nigel has a young nature I suppose.

Nell: Anyway, David doesn’t know Tony has been injured so I am going to have to tell him.

Me: Good luck with that. Dave doesn’t even like going one day without seeing Tony.

Nell: I shall organise bacon sandwiches. They will Soothe and Distract.

Me: Only temporarily. Dave forgets he’s eaten one almost immediately.

Nell: Thank goodness he will be meeting his dance partner soon. It will keep him busy.

Me: Do you know who it is?

Nell: I do and I’m not sure Sally is going to be very happy about it.

Me: Who is it then?

Nell: It’s Rhubarb.

Me: The beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog from Toronto?

Nell: Yes.

Me: Marvin’s friend?

Nell: Yes. Now, I’m going to go and tell David about Tony.

Me: Rather you than me.

Nell: Bacon sandwiches might not be enough. Can you ask Poppy for scones, please.

Me: With jam and cream?

Nell: Obviously. News like this cannot be digested over a dry scone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Practising

Me: Have you seen my darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy?

Nell: Yes, he’s outside on his lounger playing Cheeky Animals.

Me: Who is he playing with? I can’t see anyone.

Nell: Nobody. He’s just practising.

Me: But you can’t practise without someone else.

Nell: Of course you can. How on earth do you think Poppy became champion?

Me: Talking of Poppy? Have she and Harriet sorted out their differences?

Nell: Yes, the shock of Poppy’s dancing partner put all thoughts of Elliot out of their heads.

Me: That sounds worrying. Who is it?

Nell: Stephen Seagull.

Me: Stephen Seagull? The evil head of the Beefies?

Nell: Yes, that one.

Me: Oh my goodness. Poppy is going to have her paws full.

Nell: Personally I think it’s an excellent decision. She rarely dances without her sword.

Me: He’s a nasty piece of work.

Nell: Yes, it seems extraordinary to me that such a villain can have sweet Susan as his daughter.

Me: Humphrey Heron brought her up.

Nell: True. You know Susan is dancing too, don’t you?

Me: I had no idea. With Malcolm?

Nell: Don’t be silly. Malcolm’s not a professional dancer.

Me: No, I didn’t think so. Who is Susan’s professional partner then?

Nell: Babycakes Gillespie.

Me: That’s an interesting combination.

Nell: I thought so, too.

Me: Was that your iBone?

Nell: It’s just my friend Dorothy.

Me: The Salcombe Setter?

Nell: Yes. She’s been tinging me all morning.

Me: Maybe you should see what she has to say.

Nell: You are not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: Dorothy has been paired with Paolo the Portuguese Podenco.

Me: I didn’t know Dorothy was a dancer.

Nell: She isn’t. When will you realise that only one in each pair is a professional?

Me: Oh yes. Sorry.

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The Chosen One

Me: It was wonderful that Elliot had time to help us with the garden again. We want it all looking good before Chris arrives.

Nell: I’m afraid his visit has caused a little friction between Poppy and Harriet.

Me: Has it? Oh dear. Why?

Nell: Didn’t you notice Poppy showing off and calling herself The Chosen One?

Me: I noticed Harriet watching them from the lounger.

Nell: Yes. She wasn’t happy.

Me: But Elliot loves Harriet. He told me he thought she was the prettiest of you all.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Oh, don’t start, Nell. You’re a classic beauty, Dave is magnificent, Poppy is cute but Harriet is undeniably pretty.

Nell: Maybe you need to tell her that.

Me: I will.

Nell: She’s outside. She said she didn’t want any breakfast and Poppy said, ‘Good, because you aren’t getting any.’

Me: That was a bit harsh.

Nell: Poppy says you shouldn’t feed a sulker.

Me: I know what she means but she shouldn’t show off either.

Nell: You can tell her that if you are brave enough. Have you seen Knitwear Wolf with the papers?

Me: No. Are you waiting for anything in particular?

Nell: The Daily Growl is publishing the dance pairings all this week.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: There’s Rupert now. Why is he looking so shifty?

Me: Don’t be silly. Although, he does look a little troubled. Shall I ask him what’s wrong?

Nell: Yes. What did he say?

Me: I’m not sure you are going to like this, Nell.

Nell: Tell me.

Me: The Daily Growl published Rupert’s dancing partner.

Nell: And?

Me: It’s Myfanwy.

Nell: The singing corgi who turned bad and was sent to her Auntie Gwen in Wales?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Rupert’s old love?

Me: Yes. The very one. Sorry.

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Jonathan Sky is 5 today

Me: I can’t believe Jonathan is 5 today. Look at the children now and the last time they were here.

Nell: I’ve written a poem for Jonathan. Would you like to hear it?

Me: Yes. Very much.

Nell: ‘Put on your party hats

Fetch Jonathan’s crown.

Stand up, if you’re sitting,

If you’re standing, sit down.

Does he like jam?

Or would he prefer honey?

No, I didn’t say ham,

Stop trying to be funny.

We need lots of pasta,

And pizza. And steak.

There has to be chocolate,

There must be a cake.

Who’s been eating the chips?

Show me your paws.

They are covered in ketchup.

Are those dinosaurs?

What are they doing here?

Who invited them, please?

They’re awfully big.

They’re taller than trees.

How did they get here?

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Don’t make something up,

This has to be true.

They came in a rocket?

Because dinosaurs like flying?

Especially through space?

Now I know you are lying.

Oh, Jonathan told you?

Why didn’t you say?

If Jonathan invited them

Then it must be okay.

I hope dinosaurs like singing

It’s high time for a song,

Because Jonathan is five

And he can do no wrong.

No, only for today,

It can’t be for ever.

Even owls can do wrong

And they’re dreadfully clever.

Granny and Grandpa

And Harriet and Dave

And Nell and Poppy

Are all giving a wave.

Although they are ever so far away

They think of Jonathan every day.

And his little sister Faye

And Papa and Mummy.

Although Dave thinks of bacon

And filling his tummy.

So Happy Birthday to you

Darling Jonathan Sky.

Now we all know it is true

That dinosaurs can fly.’

Me: I love it.

Nell: No tears. You will see them soon.

Me: Sorry.

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The Photo Shoot

Nell: Have you seen the Strictly photos?

Me: I have.

Nell: Unbelievable. The arrogance of that lion.

Me: He does look awfully impressive.

Nell: If anyone is wearing a crown, it should be me, not Lionel King.

Me: Although his name does suggest otherwise.

Nell: Never mind his name. Mine is Eleanor Martin and he’d better remember it.

Me: Anton Du Bark looks awfully worried, but then again anyone would feel intimidated being photographed next to a large lion in a crown. Even a lithe whippet.

Nell: I’m not intimidated at all.

Me: Neither is Princess. She clapped when Lionel arrived.

Nell: She clapped when the photographer arrived.

Me: It’s a seal thing.

Nell: Anyway, I’m going to put Lionel King in his place. I am not being upstaged by a lion.

Me: He’s awfully handsome though, isn’t he? And the fact he’s a rogue sort of adds to it.

Nell: Rupert would not agree.

Me: Yes. Knitwear Wolf is not happy. Did you see his face?

Nell: I’m afraid Rupert is going to struggle with Lionel as a judge.

Me: Oh yes. Rupert is one of the professional dancers.

Nell: I’m expecting fireworks.

Me: I hope not. Oliver is easily startled. He won’t deal well with them at all.

Nell: Not literally. Figuratively. Rupert and Lionel are bound to clash.

Me: Beauregard and Lionel aren’t exactly best buddies either.

Nell: I’m going to have my paws full trying to keep this judging panel in order.

Me: If anyone can do it then it’s you.

Nell: You are too kind.

Me: You haven’t forgotten that it’s Jonathan’s birthday tomorrow, have you?

Nell: Of course not. I’ve been working on my poem.

Me: And it’s also Talk Like A Pirate Day apparently. Lionel should love that.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Sorry.