Book · Siegfried

I’m having second thoughts about the cat

Me: Richard is really pleased with Harriet’s progress.

Nell: Excellent news. I knew she would do well at the vets.

Me: They were all so happy to see her back to her old self. Lots of cuddles and smiling faces.

Nell: Did you enjoy the picnic?

Me: We did. How was your tea?

Nell: I’m having second thoughts about the cat.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: It drank out of the milk jug and took all the smoked salmon.

Me: How rude?

Nell: Poppy had made sandwiches and it took the salmon out and left us with the bread.

Me: Shocking.

Nell: Half way through our game of bridge it lit up a cigarette. In the house!

Me: That’s not on.

Nell: I told it to go outside of course and it left. Just like that.

Me: Cats don’t really care about convention.

Nell: Well, that’s it, as I said to my friend Dorothy. I’m not having that cat in my reading group.

Me: Do I know Dorothy?

Nell: She’s a Salcombe Setter. One of the sailing crowd.

Me: I didn’t know you sailed?

Nell: Of course I sail. I learnt in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. I used to do Cowes Week but all that partying can be tiring.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Anyway, I can’t stand here chatting all day. Herr Schaeferhund, the German Shepherd, is arriving at any moment to teach the puppies and he needs his coffee. Hot and strong.

Me: Is he now?

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: You like him. Admit it. You are wearing a new scarf and is that perfume I can smell?

Nell: This old thing and it’s just my usual Chanel. Stop meddling and go and get the coffee.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Anyone for bridge?

Nell: I knew that visiting spaniel was the sickly type. Letting us down just before we went on stage.

Me: Yes, but didn’t Harriet read well? Jumping in at the last minute.

Nell: She was the perfect Cecily.

Me: And the cat was excellent.

Nell: It surprised us all. Wonderful clear delivery and the spectacles were inspired.

Me: You two certainly seemed to get on.

Nell: Yes. The cat has agreed to join my reading group. We are taking tea together later.

Me: I thought Dave was adorable. Where did he find that ear trumpet for Mutley?

Nell: Goodness knows, but it was a huge help and stopped us having to repeat our lines to him constantly. I’m not sure it was quite the right look for a romantic lead, however.

Me: People understood.

Nell: David is a natural performer, although Algernon didn’t sing in the original version.

Me: He must have been boiling in that tweed jacket.

Nell: He borrowed it from the Prince. They have been in regular contact since the wedding.

Me: Nice of James to bring it down.

Nell: Yes, with fresh vegetables from Highgrove and some of Camilla’s marmalade.

Me: The farm dogs gave you a standing ovation.

Nell: Very flattering, if rather loud. I don’t know who invited them.

Me: I might have mentioned it. Over the fence, in passing.

Nell: If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times. Do not gossip with the farm dogs. They are in league with the Daily Growl.

Me: They are huge fans, Nell. One of them was wearing a t shirt with your face on the front.

Nell: Good grief. Now, Harriet has her check up this afternoon. We are all expecting good news but she is understandably nervous.

Me: So am I.

Nell: Poppy has packed a light picnic. A few fairy cakes, some chicken sandwiches, crusts off, and a flask of tea. Decaf, of course.

Me: That’s kind.

Nell: I suggest you stop off at the Quay on your way back. A little stroll and some fresh air will do her the power of good.

Me: Good idea. Are you coming?

Nell: I can’t. The cat is coming to tea and we are hoping Mutley and Poppy will join us for a game of bridge.

Me: What about Dave?

Nell: David is going surfing with the lifeguards. Why do you think he is wearing his wetsuit?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Bank Holiday

Nell: Where did you get that photo?

Me: Poppy said it was of you when you were a matron.

Nell: It’s clearly been photoshopped. My hat isn’t like that.

Me: I thought it looked a bit ancient.

Nell: It’s insubordination.

Me: It made me laugh and I haven’t done that in a few days.

Nell: Anyway, I’ve just come off the phone to Noel. He has been most concerned about Harriet, as you know, and was all for rushing over here but I told him she is doing really well and we will stay in touch.

Me: So what exactly happened?

Nell: Harriet was bleeding internally from the ovarian stump. It is a complication from surgery that shouldn’t happen but sometimes does.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: The bleeding will have been going on the whole time so Kev probably saved her life by noticing it leaking and moving so fast.

Me: By the time we got to Richard she had lost a lot of blood.

Nell: Yes. Fortunately Richard was able to get her into surgery quickly and stop the bleeding. She is making excellent progress now and had a good sleep and an excellent breakfast.

Me: Can we just have a quiet family day, Nell? No dramas?

Nell: Harriet is having a quiet day but there will be drama this afternoon as we are performing The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde for her entertainment.

Me: You are doing what?

Nell: We had to keep ourselves busy so we decided that a play would be a good idea. I am playing Lady Bracknell of course. Mutley is an elderly, but wise Jack. He doesn’t always hear his cue but I am prompting. David will make an excellent Algernon.

Me: I wondered why he was wearing a cravat.

Nell: Poppy is Gwendolyn and has roped in a visiting spaniel to play little Cecily.

Me: And Miss Prism?

Nell: We are breaking boundaries here, but after much discussion we are allowing the cat from the big house to play her.

Me: Gosh!

Nell: Kev will play the butler Lane and any other characters needed and is directing. As a former actor he knows about these things.

Me: What about me?

Nell: You, my dear, will be sitting next to Harriet and enjoying the performance. The last few days have taken their toll. But don’t forget the ice creams in the interval like last time.

Me: Yes. Thank you. Sorry.


Waiting for Harriet

Me: What a dreadful day. I don’t think I slept at all last night worrying about her.

Nell: Harriet is in capable hands. Richard is keeping a close eye on her.

Me: Fortunately Kev noticed the bleeding and acted quickly.

Nell: Yes, and Richard and his team of vets were able to operate at once.

Me: Dave hasn’t left my side.

Nell: I know. He was very sick last night. It’s the worry.

Me: I’ve never seen Poppy like this.

Nell: Yes, she can’t rest until Harriet comes home. She just sits by her bed.

Me: Thank goodness for Mutley’s calm presence.

Nell: He has seen so much in his life. He knows when to keep quiet and wait.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Kev just spoke to Richard and she is alert this morning and has had breakfast. We have to ring again later but it is looking good.

Me: I just want her home, Nell.

Nell: We all do.


The patient is doing well

Nell: The patient spent a peaceful night.

Me: I didn’t.

Nell: If you insist on checking on her through the night you only have yourself to blame. The patient is showing a healthy appetite and enjoyed her breakfast.

Me: Why do you keep calling Harriet the patient?

Nell: Apologies. Force of habit.

Me: And where did you find that hat?

Nell: It’s my matron’s cap.

Me: It’s a bit scary.

Nell: David loves it. He’s decided he wants to be a doctor.

Me: That’s ambitious.

Nell: I told him that anything is possible if you apply yourself, but I don’t think medicine is for him.

Me: I agree. Although his bedside manner is lovely.

Nell: A doctor cannot hug his patients and cry when they are in pain. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

Me: True.

Nell: Cards have started arriving and can be displayed on the ward, but no flowers.

Me: What ward? Are you talking about my bedroom?

Nell: Yes, for the time being.

Me: I can have flowers if I want to.

Nell: Don’t be difficult. The farm dogs just brought round a bunch of wild flowers. I know they picked them from the hedgerow but it was a kind gesture.

Me: Yes. Very sweet.

Nell: Poppy is giving them tea and biscuits. The poor things look half starved.

Me: I might go back to bed too, Nell. I’m exhausted.

Nell: You will have to be quick then as hospital rounds begin soon.

Me: What? Who is the doctor?

Nell: Mutley, of course. He was a Senior Consultant before he retired. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Harriet is home

Me: Darling Harriet is finally home.

Nell: Please try not to fuss. She needs her sleep.

Me: I know.

Nell: I have everything under control and she is in safe paws. I have discussed post-operative care with our vets Alex and Tom. She is bound to be drowsy. Fortunately my training at the London Clinic will stand me in good stead.

Me: I didn’t know you trained as a nurse.

Nell: It’s a while ago now, but one doesn’t forget.

Me: Dave is being very good with her.

Nell: Yes. David knows his duties. He had a little cry when she came home but he pulled himself together and is watching over her now.

Me: She will like that.

Nell: Yes. I suggested he saves the song he wrote for tomorrow.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: Poppy has prepared chicken broth and rice for her tea. A light but nutritious supper.

Me: Lovely.

Nell: Mutley will read to her when she wakes. We thought some Dickens might be nice. David Copperfield is one of her favourites and Mutley reads so well.

Me: You seem to have it all sorted.

Nell: You are on night duty, of course. Please don’t keep getting up to check she is breathing. It is so annoying.

Me: I can’t help worrying.

Nell: There is no need. Harriet is much stronger than we think.

Me: You are right.

Nell: I am going to sit with her now. If Monty Don calls from the Chelsea Flower Show just tell him I’ll get back to him.

Me: He won’t like that.

Nell: Harriet comes before flowers.

Me: Of course she does. Sorry.


Citizens of the world

Me: Harriet’s operation isn’t until tomorrow?

Nell: Calm down. The vet called first thing and explained that there are some very sick animals who need operating on today. They asked if we minded postponing it until tomorrow morning and we agreed.

Me: Of course. How is Harriet?

Nell: She is very brave and quite understands.

Me: Bless her.

Nell: David, on the other hand, is crying in a corner.

Me: Oh no!

Nell: He probably can’t bear another evening of fasting.

Me: That’s not true, Nell. It will be the stress of waiting.

Nell: Yes, David’s Waiting Skills are not good. Either way we need to get through the next 24 hours. Poppy has suggested a Day Of Fun. I’m not sure. It’s either Fun or Focus.

Me: Can I vote for Fun?

Nell: We have an awful lot to do you know. I’ve got a German Shepherd coming to interview me later for Hunde Heute, a popular newspaper. They want my take on the Royal Wedding.

Me: I didn’t know you spoke German?

Nell: Of course, I do. And French. My Spanish is a little rusty and my Italian needs refreshing but I get by.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: We dogs are citizens of the world.

Me: I’m impressed.

Nell: Anyway, I think Poppy might be right about today so gadewch yr hwyl yn dechrau.

Me: What?

Nell: Let the fun begin in Welsh. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


On the Beach again

Nell: There is nothing like a cooling swim on a hot day. Most enjoyable.

Me: I agree. The feel of the pebbles between your toes and the gentle kiss of the sea on your skin.

Nell: Good grief. Have you been on one of your writing workshops again?

Me: No.

Nell: Well, it’s a very poetic description for a quick paddle.

Me: I didn’t know Poppy could swim, by the way.

Nell: I don’t think Poppy knew either. Harriet was ever so worried.

Me: She is such a water rat isn’t she?

Nell: I know Poppy looks a little raggedy when she gets wet but rat is a bit harsh.

Me: I was talking about Harriet. She adores the water.

Nell: Yes, I was thinking of asking Toby next door if she could join him lifeguarding this summer.

Me: I’m not sure she has the strength even though she is an excellent swimmer. What about Dave?

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: Dave is handsome enough to be a lifeguard. I can just see him running along the beach in his lifeguard gear and leaping into the waves to rescue someone in distress.

Nell: I’ll be in distress if you carry on like this. How exactly will he rescue them?

Me: They just climb on his back and he swims to the beach and safety.

Nell: He is more likely to swim out to sea with them if he sees a seagull. Anyway, enough of that. Poppy and I are going to talk to Harriet about her operation tomorrow. Mutley is on standby for gentle reassurance and David for cuddles.

Me: Good.

Nell: If she talks to you please give sensible answers. I certainly don’t want to hear My poor little puppy. I know what you are like.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Everyone is fasting from 8pm so no late dinner, or sneaky snacks in front of the television. Don’t think I don’t notice.

Me: Understood.

Nell: Have you seen my phone? Only Noel promised to call and talk it through with Harriet. We discussed it at the wedding and he said he was happy to answer any questions she might have.

Me: Do you mean Supervet Noel?

Nell: Of course, I do. I’m not going to discuss spaying with a random stranger. Honestly.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


The Apology

Me: Thank goodness the tiara and necklace have gone.

Nell: Yes. James collected them this morning. David has written an apology to Her Majesty.

Me: Good.

Nell: I’m not sure Dear Queen was the right way to start the letter and ending it with Hugs from Dave was a little informal but I thought it should be in his own words.

Me: I agree. Did Poppy write one too?

Nell: No. She put in a few flapjacks.

Me: So what’s coming up next?

Nell: It’s the Chelsea Flower Show, of course. Thank goodness I’m not one of the judges this year.

Me: Are you still going?

Nell: Monty Don says it won’t be the same without me but I’m not sure.

Me: Is it because of Harriet’s operation on Thursday?

Nell: Exactly, and although it’s routine I feel I need to be there for her. I’ve been through it myself.

Me: Are you sure we shouldn’t tell her?

Nell: Best not to bother her until tomorrow. She will only worry.

Me: Did you tell Dave?

Nell: Actually, I did.

Me: That’s why he is looking so sad.

Nell: Yes. He is going to try dreadfully hard to be good and to share any treats. He is also going to be gentle and soft pawed and not bouncy.

Me: Do you think he can do it?

Nell: I know he will try. He is not a young puppy anymore.

Me: He is only 11 months, Nell.

Nell: He is nearly a year. We need to trust him. It is the only way he will learn.

Me: I suppose so.

Nell: But, just in case, Harriet will sleep in your room after the operation.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: We are off to the beach later. The one we can use. I need to be seen, or my supporters will think I’ve forgotten them. Can you bring your camera?

Me: To capture the memories?

Nell: No, I need photos for my column in Barking Weekly. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Home again

Me: Look at Harriet.

Nell: Yes. She’s in the garden in her favourite place just enjoying being home.

Me: It’s lovely to have you all back. The house has been so quiet.

Nell: It’s been an exciting few days but now we need to relax.

Me: I hope all this excitement hasn’t gone to the their heads.

Nell: David is convinced he should become an actor. He spent way too much time with the Suits people. I told him to talk to Tom Hardy. He is a little intense but grounded and understands dogs.

Me: Those actresses were incredibly glamorous weren’t they?

Nell: Meghan outshone them all. We did enjoy our tiaras.

Me: Has Mutley recovered?

Nell: He is dreadfully tired. I think the European tour is a bad idea. A studio album will do the trick.

Me: Poppy is baking again.

Nell: She promised to send Harry and Meghan some of her flapjacks and a few scones.

Me: They will like that.

Nell: I don’t believe it. Look at that animal!

Me: What?

Nell: David just walked past wearing my tiara.

Me: It was only on loan wasn’t it?

Nell: Of course. I’ll have to call the palace and explain.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: I bet he is Snapchatting right now with James Corden. They were as thick as thieves at the wedding.

Me: It suits him in a strange way. Oh no!

Nell: Just tell me Poppy isn’t wearing the necklace over her apron.

Me: She is. Sorry.