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The right hat

Nell: David’s top hat is perfect but I’m not at all sure about Harriet’s.

Me: Neither am I. The shape is all wrong on her. What was The Cat thinking?

Nell: I don’t know. It seemed rather distracted. Something about a lion in the orchard. Made no sense to me.

Me: Couldn’t Harriet wear her tiara?

Nell: Tiaras aren’t suitable for afternoon tea. Even with The Queen.

Me: I suppose not.

Nell: If we were having cocktails we might consider it.

Me: Maybe you are. The Queen might fancy a Cosmopolitan.

Nell: If The Queen was having anything it would be a small sherry. Richly deserved.

Me: She might want something different.

Nell: Nonsense. It will be delicate cups of Earl Grey tea accompanied by finger sandwiches, crusts off, scones, small iced cakes and perhaps a slice of Poppy’s cake if Her Majesty feels so inclined.

Me: What is Poppy’s cake?

Nell: No idea. She is keeping it a secret. It’s extremely large. That much I do know.

Me: Several tiers I expect.

Nell: Oceans of them from Gladys when she heard she isn’t coming with us.

Me: I was talking about layers of cake.

Nell: And I was talking about Gladys. Why bring cake into it?

Me: Never mind.

Nell: Why are you wearing a dress by the way? It’s Wednesday.

Me: It’s my Wednesday Writers’ Christmas Lunch.

Nell: That’s nice. Where are you going?

Me: The Cottage Hotel in Hope Cove.

Nell: Excellent. I’ll fetch my hat.

Me: I’m afraid it’s no dogs in the dining room.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: I don’t make the rules.

Nell: So, I’m not allowed in the dining room but I am allowed to take tea with The Queen at Windsor Castle?

Me: Yes. It’s a funny old world. Sorry.

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Stormy weather

Me: The weather is not particularly inviting today, is it?

Nell: It’s positively uninviting.

Me: Fortunately we’re not going out until lunchtime.

Nell: You’re not going anywhere. I heard you coughing in the night.

Me: I have regular coughing fits since catching Covid in July. There’s nothing to worry about. It passes.

Nell: Poppy is making you hot tea with lemon and ginger. Make sure you drink it all.

Me: I rather fancied a black coffee.

Nell: A black coffee?

Me: Yes.

Nell: You’ll be asking for a croissant next.

Me: That would be lovely.

Nell: No chance. Poppy is far too busy making a cake for The Queen.

Me: When are you going?

Nell: Friday. The car will be here around 11am.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: Yes. The Cat is coming over this afternoon with a selection of hats for everyone.

Me: Everyone? I thought it was just you, Dave and Harriet.

Nell: It is. And Henry and Horst.

Me: Does The Queen know about Henry and Horst?

Nell: Of course The Queen knows. You don’t just turn up to afternoon tea at Windsor Castle hoping to get a table for six.

Me: I just wondered if Her Majesty had ever entertained a woodlouse before.

Nell: This will be a first for her, as it happens. However, once I gave her their back story and we sent over their CVs, all was well.

Me: Henry and Horst have resumes?

Nell: You don’t think Sally would have hired them without one, do you?

Me: I didn’t know Sally had hired them.

Nell: Forget I just said that.

Me: So Henry and Horst are now officially spies? They’ll need trench coats and sunglasses.

Nell: They already have trench coats and nobody wears sunglasses in this weather. Do keep up.

Me: Sorry.

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Wondering

Me: Did you like your antlers?

Nell: You only got three.

Me: I didn’t think Poppy would want one.

Nell: Poppy took two so David has none.

Me: It’s the thought that counts.

Nell: Not really. So, how was your book signing?

Me: The Christmas market was lovely and I met some interesting people. Not everyone wanted to buy a book, but that’s life.

Nell: Why not?

Me: I’d rather not say.

Nell: You are definitely going to have to say now.

Me: Well, one lady considered it, and even looked at the photos, but then she closed the book and said, ‘I have a setter’ and smiled and left.

Nell: A setter?

Me: Yes. I think there just must have been too many Labradors for her liking.

Nell: Too many Labradors?

Me: If your friend Dorothy the Salcombe Setter had been on the cover she might have bought it.

Nell: Dorothy couldn’t write a book if she tried.

Me: I know that and you know that.

Nell: I don’t have to fall down a rabbit hole to enjoy ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Me: Well, you sort of do in a way, to be honest. You have to be prepared to wonder.

Nell: Yes, you’re right and some people simply aren’t.

Me: No.

Nell: Talking of wondering, I was wondering if you wanted your second boiled egg.

Me: No, thank you. One is plenty for me.

Nell: I might have it then as David ate mine by mistake.

Me: I hope he doesn’t eat The Queen’s boiled egg when you visit her.

Nell: The Queen won’t be eating boiled eggs in the afternoon.

Me: She might fancy one.

Nell: Boiled eggs are for breakfast, or nursery tea. If you had said scotch eggs, however, I might have agreed.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Strictly Champions

Me: Harriet and Beauregard won! I’m delighted for them.

Nell: Calm down. The Daily Growl will be here soon and Harriet is practising looking regal.

Me: The new Queen of the Ballroom.

Nell: Deservedly so. She danced beautifully.

Me: Where is Beauregard?

Nell: In the garden playing Cheeky Animals with Henry and Horst.

Me: Do Henry and Horst have tongues?

Nell: No, but that won’t stop them. Nothing does.

Me: Isn’t the whole game based on secretly sticking out your tongue?

Nell: And catching your opponents when they do. Henry and Horst are excellent catchers. Anyway, shouldn’t you be getting ready? You’ve got a book signing to attend.

Me: I know. I’m a bit nervous to be honest.

Nell: Why?

Me: I’m actually quite shy, Nell.

Nell: Kev will be with you. There’s nothing to worry about.

Me: I wish you were with me.

Nell: I know you do but there’s nothing to be done.

Me: You’re right.

Nell: Besides I’m needed here. Gladys is in floods of tears and Count Bingo has shut himself in the tree house and won’t come down.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: They’ll perk up as soon as Sunday Songs start. The llamas have managed to organise trampolines and the Welsh corgi choir are singing show tunes.

Me: Oh good. I don’t like to think of them being sad.

Nell: It’s nothing a good bounce and a Sunday roast won’t cure.

Me: Would you ask Poppy to save some for me and Kev? We’ll be hungry when we get back.

Nell: I very much doubt it. Poppy has made you a picnic. Mini quiches, sandwiches, scones, cake, mince pies and a flask of tea.

Me: How kind of her.

Nell: She loves you. We all do. Now, go and sell some books.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Dog and Dash

Me: It was awfully wet in the Dog and Dash Activity Field, wasn’t it?

Nell: Poppy loves nothing more than a really good dash.

Me: And Davey loves Harriet. He barely left her side.

Nell: Don’t call him Davey, please. He’s a grown Labrador.

Me: Sally calls him Davey.

Nell: Sally is his girlfriend. She’s allowed.

Me: Is that why Knitwear Wolf is allowed to call you Nelly?

Nell: What Rupert chooses to call me is none of your business.

Me: Just saying.

Nell: Well, don’t. Are you all set for the Christmas market tomorrow?

Me: Yes. The publishers sent me a box of books and I have a few calendars.

Nell: You need to get the calendars in our online shop.

Me: Yes, I know but I’m not exactly sure how you do it.

Nell: Well, go on YouChewed. There’s a video for everything on there.

Me: Yes. How is everyone feeling about tonight’s Strictly final?

Nell: Gladys and Count Bingo Flamingo can’t wait. Apparently they are going all out to impress.

Me: Knowing Gladys I’m expecting a real extravaganza.

Nell: There is certainly going to be a flamboyance of flamingos.

Me: What about Harriet and Beauregard?

Nell: Top hats and tails.

Me: Perfect. Will the Whippets Institute Big Band be performing?

Nell: Yes, and David will be singing with the Welsh corgi choir.

Me: What about the llamas? Will they be dancing?

Nell: The llamas are always dancing. My friend Dorothy found them cartwheeling down the aisles at Barks and Spencer.

Me: Was that wise?

Nell: No. As Dorothy pointed out, you might expect it at Walbark as they have plenty of room but Barks is a different matter.

Me: I’m not sure I could cartwheel anymore.

Nell: Something for which I am extremely thankful.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Never whisper in a tiger’s ear

Nell: David is deeply concerned about Harriet.

Me: Why?

Nell: She’s become over attached to Beauregard and waits for him every morning.

Me: That’s because they’re dancing together. It’ll stop after the final tomorrow.

Nell: Jim the Farm Dog doesn’t like it at all.

Me: If Jim is worried he can always have a quick word in Beauregard’s ear.

Nell: Tigers don’t like anyone whispering in their ears.

Me: Really?

Nell: It’s a well known fact. Never whisper in a tiger’s ear. It will end in disaster.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Many an animal has regretted it deeply.

Me: I expect they have.

Nell: Although Oliver could probably whisper in his ear if necessary and Henry and Horst do it all the time.

Me: Maybe they could tell him about Harriet.

Nell: No. Best let sleeping tigers lie.

Me: You’d better warn Dave too.

Nell: I will. He’s very protective of his sister you know.

Me: Bless him. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: He doesn’t want her visiting The Queen with me alone.

Me: Why ever not?

Nell: He thinks we need escorting and he is just the Labrador for the job.

Me: He’s absolutely right. The Queen would love him and he would look so handsome in a top hat.

Nell: Yes, but can he be trusted? We are talking about afternoon tea here. Finger sandwiches, scones and tiny little cakes with the royal coat of arms iced on the top of them.

Me: You don’t know that. They might not have anything iced on the top of them at all.

Nell: That’s not the point. The mistakes that could be made are endless.

Me: And will The Queen want three Labradors to tea when she’s only expecting one?

Nell: You can never have enough Labradors.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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An Invitation

Me: Don’t look at me like that, Nell. There’s nothing I can do.

Nell: You’re going to your first book signing on Sunday without me.

Me: Dogs aren’t allowed in the village hall and I can’t leave you outside for hours and hours.

Nell: Sign the books outside then.

Me: It’s a Christmas Market for dog people and the tables are all inside.

Nell: Dog people with no dogs?

Me: Some of them might leave the dogs in the car but I don’t want to do that.

Nell: Selfish.

Me: You don’t even like socialising.

Nell: That depends. I have an invitation to tea at Windsor Castle from The Queen, by the way.

Me: Really?

Nell: The Queen likes to keep an eye on all of her royal corgis, good or bad, and she heard Lady Anwen had been released.

Me: Couldn’t you just chat about it on the iBone or zoom each other?

Nell: The Queen prefers face to face discussions wherever possible.

Me: How are you getting there?

Nell: She’s sending a car.

Me: When are you going?

Nell: Next week. I told her I can’t get away until after the final of Strictly and she quite understood.

Me: That was kind of her.

Nell: She watches it on television, you know. She says the royal corgis are simply glued to the screen every week.

Me: How lovely.

Nell: Yes, if Harriet wins I might ask if I can take her with me.

Me: What if Gladys wins?

Nell: I’m afraid Gladys is a little too wild for The Queen. We don’t want her swinging from the chandeliers. You know what she’s like.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Harriet is nice and quiet.

Me: Unless she sees the sea.

Nell: Windsor Castle is nowhere near the sea.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Christmas Thoughts

Me: Christmas is having a wonderfully calming effect on Dave and Harriet, isn’t it?

Nell: It’s only 1st December.

Me: Dave is fascinated by our advent candles. He just gazes at them for hours.

Nell: Does he?

Me: Yes. He’s probably thinking ever such Deep Thoughts. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: I’m not sure they are that deep. He asked Rupert if candles were something one might eat by mistake.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Don’t worry. Rupert told him they were dangerous to dogs so now he is keeping a respectful distance.

Me: Well, Harriet seemed thoughtful next to the Christmas tree.

Nell: Harriet is pondering the final of Strictly. She and Beauregard will be dancing their Couple’s Choice as will Gladys and Count Bingo Flamingo.

Me: It’s sure to be spectacular. I can’t wait until Saturday.

Nell: There is bound to be the odd trapeze and a trampoline or two with Gladys but I’m expecting Beauregard to keep it classic.

Me: He is an elegant tiger.

Nell: Yes and a fine ballroom dancer, if not quite up to Rupert’s standard.

Me: Knitwear Wolf is the King of Ballroom.

Nell: He is.

Me: I’m afraid Beauregard won’t get Lionel King’s vote, though, whatever he does.

Nell: It doesn’t matter as it is only down to the public vote and anyway Lionel has promised Lady Anwen that he will be completely fair.

Me: What’s Lady Anwen got to do with the price of fish?

Nell: Nothing at all and why even mention fish?

Me: It’s just a saying. Why is Lionel promising Lady Anwen anything?

Nell: They are associates. She is staying with him at the hotel on Burgh Island and she has to be on her Best Behaviour. Everybody knows that.

Me: I don’t trust either of them. Sorry.

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Tuesday Snugglings

Nell: There’s a lot of Snuggling going on here for a Tuesday morning.

Me: Yes, I know.

Nell: Is there any particular reason why Poppy and Harriet are keeping you so close?

Me: I was feeling a little bit low, Nell, and missing the children and grandchildren. It will be the second year that I’m spending Christmas without seeing them.

Nell: That’s perfectly understandable. I advise a nice cup of Earl Grey with a mince pie by the fire after a brisk walk on the beach.

Me: Could it be more of a gentle amble than a brisk walk?

Nell: Not in this weather. Brisk is Best. Trust me.

Me: But I’m not feeling Brisk. I just want to be lazy.

Nell: You soon will be. Now, where’s your all-encasing hat?

Me: It’s hanging up by the stairs.

Nell: You’ll need a warm coat and boots too and one of Knitwear Wolf’s soft scarves.

Me: I was feeling really comfortable all snuggled up with Harriet and Poppy in my chair remembering the happy times.

Nell: No, you weren’t. You were Dwelling on the Past and Dwelling simply won’t do.

Me: It’s fine to think back to the good times.

Nell: Yes, but only if you do it in a positive way. We don’t want any ‘What Ifs’ or ‘If Onlys’. There is no point. It is what it is and we are going to make the best of it.

Me: I suppose you’re right.

Nell: I am. Now chop chop. Let’s get a spring in your step.

Me: I’m not a hardy llama you know.

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: They’re out dancing in all weathers. And they’re only wearing pyjamas.

Nell: Nonsense. They have ski suits under their dressing gowns. Do keep up.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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Keep Your Enemies Close

Me: You seemed deep in thought down on the beach.

Nell: I have a lot on my mind.

Me: What were you and Poppy talking about?

Nell: Poppy is finding keeping our enemies close rather exhausting, as am I.

Me: You should have seen your face when Lady Anwen arrived for lunch.

Nell: Fortunately Rupert took me to one side and explained.

Me: I never knew that The Queen pardoned a Bad Corgi once a year if they promised to be Good.

Nell: Seriously?

Me: Yes. I knew about the US President pardoning a turkey and I know Lady Anwen is a royal corgi but it was quite a surprise because she’s been awfully Bad.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes I really do.

Me: Why?

Nell: You’ll believe anything.

Me: Isn’t it true then?

Nell: No. Sally organised her release. Lady Anwen has been masterminding the tainted biscuit operation from Dartmoor Prison and needed to be stopped.

Me: But she showed us her Royal Letter of Pardon.

Nell: An easy forgery. Rupert and Poppy brought it to her having convinced Myfanwy it was real.

Me: Clever. And now she is free?

Nell: She had to promise to be Good. At the first sign of Badness she will be back inside.

Me: Does taking the last Yorkshire Pudding without asking count?

Nell: No. Unfortunately. It is only a matter of time, however, and Poppy is on the case.

Me: At least Malcolm and Alejandro don’t seem too upset about being eliminated from Strictly.

Nell: No. It was the correct decision. Alejandro is fine with the Latin dances but ballroom was always going to be a challenge.

Me: The Llamas seem to manage and they have hooves.

Nell: Alejandro is an alpaca and llamas have toes not hooves.

Me: Oh. Sorry.