Nell: I am afraid David is in detention.

Me: Oh no!

Nell: It’s his obsession with birds. It’s getting out of hand.

Me: Oh dear. What happened?

Nell: He and Harriet were outside yesterday evening practising their retrieving when he spotted a bird in a bush and leapt into it.

Me: That was naughty.

Nell: It was also embarrassing. As you know we have another lovely Canadian guest, Jaime, staying with us and she was trying to relax in the garden after her long flight.

Me: Did you explain?

Nell: I was resting inside as I had such a busy day. It was up to Harriet to try and calm things down but he wouldn’t listen.

Me: Well, Jaime seems fine to me. She loves Dave.

Nell: I think you will find the special bond is between myself and Jaime. We spent a very pleasurable time together later in the evening discussing life.

Me: That’s nice. I’m not sure detention is the answer for Dave, by the way.

Nell: I am at the end of my tether with that animal. I’ve told him before that birds fly and this is not something he will ever be able to do.

Me: Maybe he will become a pilot when he grows up.

Nell: Now, that has to be one of the silliest things you have said yet.

Me: Yes.

Nell: David is going into software development. He’s always been interested in computers. You know that.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


Tickle and Turn

Me: What are Harriet and Poppy doing?

Nell: They are playing Tickle and Turn. Nothing to worry about?

Me: What on earth is that?

Nell: It’s a popular game.

Me: I’ve never played.

Nell: Of course you haven’t it’s only for dogs. Or do you want to wriggle on the floor on your back?

Me: Not really.

Nell: I thought not.

Me: How do you play?

Nell: If you get caught and tickled you have to roll on your back and move around. Then you can catch someone else.

Me: It sounds fun.

Nell: Poppy takes it too far and adds wild barking but David and Harriet keep it to acceptable grunting in the correct labradorian way.

Me: I always thought you were just rolling around for fun.

Nell: It is fun.

Me: What if you don’t want to play?

Nell: A raised paw and shake of the head should suffice. Although terriers never seem to listen and I find walking away the best solution.

Me: It must be annoying, though, if you are in the middle of dinner and someone tickles you.

Nell: In the middle of dinner! A labrador would never suggest Tickle and Turn during dinner. What on earth are you talking about?

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Nell: Look at David!

Me: How gorgeous. Darling Dave.

Nell: David is eavesdropping. Harriet told him to because he is tall enough to see through the window.

Me: Surely not. He is just looking in. Bless him.

Nell: Poppy, Mutley and I were having a Board Meeting in the living room and that naughty animal was listening in.

Me: What do you mean a Board Meeting?

Nell: You don’t think Corner Cottage just runs itself do you?

Me: I didn’t know we had a board.

Nell: Yes. Poppy, Mutley and I are the directors. And Kev too, of course.

Me: Kev? Why Kev? Hang on, I should be on the board.

Nell: Kev represents you.

Me: This is outrageous. I’m on Dave’s side. Secret meetings. It’s not fair.

Nell: Don’t be silly. You were quite happy until you found out.

Me: What were you discussing?

Nell: If you check on Companies House you can see further details.

Me: Do you have a company then?

Nell: Of course we do. We are the directors.

Me: I vote that Dave, Harriet and I become directors too.

Nell: You don’t have a vote but I will add it to the agenda.

Me: Thank you.

Nell: Can I get back to my meeting now, or we will never finish and I have to circulate the minutes by the end of today?

Me: Yes, sorry.


Good news

Me: Did you enjoy your visit to Kingsbridge?

Nell: I did. It is always lovely to watch the boats and relax in good company.

Me: You mean Kev, I suppose. The loving look and paw on leg says it all.

Nell: You were there too, but Kev and I do have a quiet understanding. That’s true.

Me: I know. I’m glad your paw has healed, Nell. No more Comfort Ring and your ears are clearing, too.

Nell: It is a relief. I need to walk on the beach again.

Me: Yes, we need the sand under our feet and the wind in our hair.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: The cry of the seagulls and the roar of the sea.

Nell: I’ll be crying in a minute if you don’t stop.

Me: The smell of salt in the air.

Nell: Salt doesn’t smell. Don’t be ridiculous. You probably mean seaweed. Wretched stuff.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Miscellaneous

The secret beach

Me: I don’t like Mondays. They get me down.

Nell: Just think of the secret beach.

Me: Yes. It’s a special place.

Nell: It is. Sometimes when the world is getting you down you just need to go there in your mind.

Me: Very true.

Nell: I like the fact that hardly anyone knows it is there.

Me: So do I.

Nell: Getting there isn’t easy.

Me: No, it isn’t.

Nell: But once you are there it is all worth while.

Me: Are we really talking about the secret beach, or is this some kind of metaphor?

Nell: Metaphor? It’s Monday, give me a break.

Me: I just wondered.

Nell: Have a cup of tea, look at the photos and think of happy times.

Me: Ok, sorry.


Showing Restraint

Nell: I’ve given David a fail on his Showing Restraint Skills.

Me: Oh dear. He can’t help himself, Nell. When Tony arrives he just goes wild.

Nell: I know they are best friends but David is a large animal and there are risks involved.

Me: True.

Nell: Notice in the first photo how I wait for Tony to announce himself.

Me: Well, actually he was just saying hello and discussing the weather but yes, you are showing remarkable restraint.

Nell: Exactly, and then look at the second photo to see what happened next.

Me: David heard him open the gate and dashed out to welcome him.

Nell: All discussions were at an end. David monopolised Tony completely.

Me: Actually, we still had a chat, Nell. Tony is ever so good at multitasking.

Nell: We need a new sign. Beware of David. It simply won’t do.

Me: I’m hoping he will grow out of it.

Nell: I don’t think we want David growing at all, thank you. The mere idea.

Me: You are right. Sorry.


Indiscriminate Affection

Me: Look at you and Shel. He had a lovely visit. 

Nell: Shel values my company. I find Canadians very easy guests.

Me: Yes. They are relaxed people.

Nell: I also appreciated a break from the Comfort Ring, of course, and lunch by the sea is always welcome.

Me: You were an excellent host.

Nell: I was.

Me:  Especially as it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Nell: I beg your pardon.

Me: I wouldn’t say you are especially sociable.

Nell: I am reserved. When I decide to favour people with my attention it is all the more appreciated.

Me: True. You could be a little friendlier though. Look at Dave and Harriet and the welcome they give everyone.

Nell: Exactly. Everyone. Indiscriminate Affection.

Me: Yes. That’s the way you all are. It’s the labrador way.

Nell: It most certainly is not. There is a growing group of Reserved Labradors who think very differently.

Me: Are you the Chair?

Nell: I am one of the founders but someone else is chairing this year. And less of your cheek please. We are all different. As I keep telling David and Harriet: Embrace diversity.

Me: Yes, sorry.



Me: How are you feeling?

Nell: I endure. A boiled egg for breakfast helped.

Me: What are the puppies doing?

Nell: They are Guarding. It’s the next stage in the Waiting Skills. You not only wait. You are also prepared.

Me: Prepared for what?

Nell: For anything. People underestimate us, labradors. They see us as gentle, easy going animals when in fact we are fighting machines.

Me: Goodness! It sounds more terrier like to me.

Nell: Never underestimate a labrador. Under our calm exterior we are actually completely focussed and ready to leap into action.

Me: Harriet looks more bored than prepared.

Nell: It’s not one of her strengths. David is actually quite alert.

Me: He’s waiting for Tony.

Nell: That’s as maybe but I am pleased with his progress. Nice tea, by the way.

Me: I’m glad.

Nell: Don’t bother with cucumber sandwiches next time. Just stick with egg and maybe smoked salmon.

Me: Is there going to be a next time?

Nell: Of course there is. I am having a tea in May for the Royal Wedding.

Me: Are you inviting the neighbours?

Nell: I am toying with the idea of asking the elderly labrador from The Coach House but those farm dogs are not setting foot in here.

Me: What about the cat from the big house?

Nell: I am going to pretend you didn’t ask such a ridiculous question.

Me: Yes, sorry.


The Comfort Ring

Nell: Do we have to discuss this again?

Me: You have to wear the Comfort Ring, Nell. You’ve got a very sore paw.

Nell: Firstly, whoever called it a Comfort Ring was clearly having a laugh and secondly, I do not need one. You and that vet Emily are wrong.

Me: Don’t call her that vet Emily. She is only doing this for your own good. You mustn’t lick your paw.

Nell: I’m not going to.

Me: When I took it off you immediately licked it.

Nell: Just a momentary lapse in concentration.

Me: You are wearing it. Your health comes first. 

Nell: Well, your Aunt Pam was right.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: Nothing’s so bad it can’t get worse.

Me: Oh dear. Just rest and you will get well soon.

Nell: It seems I have no choice but to endure. Such is a labrador’s life.

Me: Is there anything I can do?

Nell: Poppy and I are teaching the puppies to play Bridge this afternoon. You could provide afternoon tea.

Me: Ok.

Nell: Remember I like my scones with jam and then cream. I know we live in Devon but the Cornish got that one right.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And Earl Grey please. None of that herbal nonsense you drink.

Me: Anything else? Champagne, perhaps?

Nell: Dont be ridiculous. I’m on antibiotics.

Me: Yes, sorry.



Me: My goodness, you are a beautiful dog.

Nell: I have classic Labradorian looks. That’s true. My mother Fleur was quite stunning.

Me: You aren’t going to let all this fame go to your head, are you?

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: Well, there are quite a lot of people who follow you, not to mention their animals.

Nell: Yes, I find it extremely gratifying. Do you know, there is a young lab called Billy who executed the most delightful Strategic Placement with a neck turn?  I am going to practise it with the puppies later.

Me: So all this is fine with you? I thought I would check.

Nell: Apart from the fact that it’s a bit late now and like closing the back door after the labrador has bolted, it is, indeed, fine with me.

Me: That’s a relief because I see us all as one big family and it is lovely to know we are making people happy.

Nell: Yes. Enough of that, however, there are things we need to do. Poppy fell in the pond down at Mrs D’s yesterday and needs help with the pondweed in her fur . Harriet is having some kind of hormonal crisis and needs a shoulder to cry on. Mutley is at the end of his tether.

Me: And Dave?

Nell: Don’t get me started on David. He hasn’t handed in his homework again. He says next door’s cat ate it.

Me: Maybe it did.

Nell: Don’t be silly. Run Poppy a bath and give Harriet a cuddle. I will calm Mutley and deal with David.

Me: Ok. Sorry.