Back from London

Me: The trip to London seems to have been a success.

Nell: Yes, apparently The Cat is now David’s new best friend.

Me: So what did they all do yesterday?

Nell: Mutley spent the day in the East End. There is some sort of crisis.

Me: Is that why the bulldogs are here?

Nell: Reggie and Ronnie? Yes. He says that the boys just fancied a holiday in Devon but I’m not convinced.

Me: They are perfectly polite.

Nell: Harriet thinks they are sweet. They call her Miss Harriet.

Me: That is rather sweet. So what about Dave?

Nell: David and The Cat had lunch near Hyde Bark.

Me: Are you sure?

Nell: Yes. A hotel on Bark Lane. Keep up.

Me: Oh.

Nell: David ordered mussels and tried to eat the shells until the waiter stopped him. He and The Cat seem to think that was hilarious.

Me: I’m glad he is alright.

Nell: He reeks of garlic. Poppy said the flight home was excruciating.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: After lunch they popped over to Harvey Tickles to do some shopping. One of my favourite places.

Me: I love the scarf they bought me.

Nell: Yes. Mine is a little sparkly but the thought counts.

Me: Did they enjoy Chicago?

Nell: They did. David shouldn’t have joined the cast on stage though.

Me: Probably not.

Nell: He took a bow. He wasn’t even performing.

Me: Awkward.

Nell: Anyway, The Cat has invited us all to dinner. It wants us to meet someone.

Me: How intriguing.

Nell: His name is Dominic Simmons and he is a Siamese.

Me: Is he here on holiday then? He must be used to hot weather.

Nell: No. He is a Siamese cat and lives here. Honestly. Siam doesn’t even exist anymore. We are not in the King and I.

Me: Oh yes. Sorry.


Flying up to London

Me: I can’t believe Mutley wants to go to London for the day.

Nell: Apparently, he has important business to attend to and it can’t wait.

Me: But it’s quite a way. Is James driving him?

Nell: No. Poppy has agreed to fly him up there by helicopter. David is being allowed to accompany him. It’s his first flight so he is a little over excited.

Me: What about Harriet?

Nell: No. Harriet needs quiet after her ordeal. She is not happy about it but her health has to come first.

Me: I’m surprised you didn’t want to go yourself.

Nell: Mutley is taking The Cat. I am not going anywhere with that vulgar animal.

Me: Does Poppy know?

Nell: Of course she knows. She’s charging Mutley double the usual rate for extra baggage. Very apt.

Me: I don’t think you should be so harsh on The Cat. It likes Harriet.

Nell: Everyone likes Harriet. Poppy has to meet some of her suppliers so The Cat is taking David to lunch and a show.

Me: He will love that. What are they seeing?

Nell: Chicago. I’ve asked Young Cuba if they can go backstage. He finishes his run soon and that ballet boy is taking over. The golden twin with the strange eyes.

Me: Do you mean Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet? He’s not a twin though.

Nell: Yes. That’s the one. He played one of the Krays before dear Tom Hardy. Mutley knew them.

Me: Who? The Krays?

Nell: Of course. Did I tell you Tom and I had a lovely chat at the wedding and he was quite taken with David? He thought he had huge potential.

Me: Dave is a natural performer.

Nell: Nothing will beat Mutley’s performance in Chicago all those years ago. He was an amazing Billy Flynn.

Me: I never knew.

Nell: Oh yes. Standing ovations.

Me: When you said Poppy is meeting her suppliers you didn’t mean drugs did you? I know she likes the odd cigar but…

Nell: I despair of you sometimes. Her food and drink suppliers. She has an excellent wine merchant. Drugs! Whatever next?

Me: Well, Mutley is the Dogfather.

Nell: Just calm down Bugsy Malone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: Why is Harriet digging?

Nell: She is trying to distract me.

Me: What?

Nell: They are all refusing to tell me where it is.

Me: What?

Nell: The farmer’s hat.

Me: Has it gone?

Nell: We are playing Hide and Fetch, which is fine in itself, but not when it involves stealing.

Me: How do you play?

Nell: You bury something, usually a bone, and someone has to find it. Distraction holes are allowed. If you know where it is when asked, you say “Fetch”.

Me: That’s why there are holes everywhere. I thought we had moles.

Nell: But this time it has gone too far. Somebody has stolen the farmer’s hat.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: David was seen wearing it in the top garden. But when asked he said he had no idea where it was now and then he shouted “Fetch”.

Me: Naughty, but actually quite brave considering you were asking.

Nell: Then I went to Harriet and asked her. She said she couldn’t possibly say, which isn’t an answer at all. As I was leaving she whispered “Fetch”.

Me: I’m sorry but this sounds fun.

Nell: Mutley knows. When I asked him, he tapped his nose in that annoying way of his and sang “Fetch”.

Me: He sang?

Nell: Yes, like an opera singer. So irritating.

Me: What about Poppy?

Nell: Poppy was creative.

Me: How?

Nell: She was baking, so obviously has a lot on her mind. I asked her politely if she knew where it was and she just pushed a cake towards me.

Me: That was nice of her.

Nell: On the top she had iced “Fetch”.

Me: Clever.

Nell: Different but then that’s Poppy for you. I’m sure John is in on it, too. He ate the cake.

Me: I wish I could play.

Nell: You can.

Me: Do you know where it is then?

Nell: Would I be telling you this story if I did?

Me: No, I suppose not.

Nell: Fetch.

Me: What did you say? You do know.

Nell: Of course, do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


The Dogfather

Me: Why has Mutley climbed on the compost bags?

Nell: So he can see the Big House.

Me: Why?

Nell: He is taking The Cat to lunch at the yacht club.

Me: Goodness me.

Nell: It’s ridiculous at his age. He’s behaving like a love sick teenager. It’s worse than Harriet and Jim. I don’t know what people are going to think when he turns up with that painted clawed floozy.

Me: Do you think The Cat feels the same way?

Nell: Of course it doesn’t. It’s after his money.

Me: I didn’t know he had any.

Nell: Mutley owns properties all over London.

Me: He does?

Nell: Yes. He’s known as The Dogfather. You must have heard him mention The Blind Barker.

Me: Yes. It’s a friend, isn’t it?

Nell: No. Silly. It’s his pub. Look, there it comes.

Me: It’s wearing a diamanté collar.

Nell: Good grief. Who wears a feather boa in the middle of the day?

Me: Dave?

Nell: Apart from David. Honestly I thought Mutley would have more sense at his age.

Me: Why is he called The Dogfather?

Nell: It comes from his time as an East End gangster. It’s a sign of respect. That Cat better behave, or they will be sending the boys round.

Me: The farm dogs?

Nell: No, the farm dogs are amateurs. You really have no idea, do you?

Me: No, sorry.


Don’t invite The Cat

Me: Did you just stick your tongue out at The Cat?

Nell: I may have.

Me: I saw you do it, Nell, when The Cat was leaving. Luckily it didn’t notice.

Nell: It waltzes over here telling me to condition my fur and keep out of the sun as it’s ageing. Sauce!

Me: It was only trying to be kind.

Nell: No, it wasn’t. It was trying to sell me its creams and perfumes.

Me: Really?

Nell: Do you know David has started wearing after shave?

Me: No!

Nell: It’s called Salty Sea Dog and smells of seaweed. David smells like that anyway. At least Mutley only wears a little cologne.

Me: Has Harriet succumbed?

Nell: No. She has too much sense but Young Jim bought her a bottle of Summer Meadow. It has a definite whiff of the cow pat about it.

Me: The Cat won’t get anywhere with Poppy.

Nell: It doesn’t go near Poppy. She told it to keep away, or feel the sharp end of her sword.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Apparently The Cat made disparaging remarks about Poppy’s scones. Said they were dry.

Me: Now that is rude.

Nell: Is Mutley wearing his Panama hat?

Me: Yes.

Nell: He overdid it on the golf course yesterday and has promised to rest today.

Me: Did you get your sunglasses back?

Nell: I did not. David jumped into the sea wearing them and they were last seen on a visiting seal. It’s the second time he’s done that.

Me: How annoying. At least they weren’t your reading glasses. You would be lost without them.

Nell: Oh no! The Cat is back and its carrying a parasol.

Me: I might have said it could join us for a game of croquet.

Nell: You did what? I’m not having it on my team. You had better warn Poppy. She is preparing tea.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Monday plans

Me: Well, that was a game and a half.

Nell: No, it wasn’t.

Me: You know exactly what I mean. We played well.

Nell: Fortunately you weren’t playing but yes, England did play quite well, and I am glad Gareth took my advice.

Me: Dave watched the whole match with us and only stole one bowl of crisps.

Nell: Yes, he can focus when he wants to. Especially on crisps. I can’t believe you fell for that one.

Me: Do you think it’s better to win, or lose? In life I mean?

Nell: It’s Monday morning. Do stop.

Me: We learn so much from losing though, don’t we?

Nell: If I don’t have my morning tea, I’ll be losing my temper. By the way, some people never learn.

Me: Have you noticed John seems to be spending an awful lot of time in the kitchen?

Nell: He runs Starbarks so he and Poppy have a great deal in common. They are thinking of selling her scones.

Me: Poppy had a twinkle in her eye when I mentioned him.

Nell: It’s just hay fever.

Me: Since he did his stand up routine at the party John has shown another side of himself. Nobody expects Dobermans to be funny.

Nell: Would you please stop matchmaking.

Me: Just saying. Poppy doesn’t share her scones with anyone.

Nell: Now, you’ve probably got the house to yourself today. Kev is working on his shed. Harriet and I are lunching out. David has gone surfing and Mutley is playing golf so he won’t be back until later.

Me: What about Poppy?

Nell: It’s her cheese day so she will be at the dairy.

Me: Oh, I might just go down to the sea for a little think.

Nell: Good grief. Come to lunch then, but get changed please. Some of us have standards. Where is my hat? I’ll need it in this weather. Did David just leave, carrying a surfboard and wearing my sunglasses?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


What was The Cat wearing?

Me: Would you like your tea in bed?

Nell: I would like to sleep.

Me: Come on, you know you want to chat.

Nell: Did The Cat perform “Big Spender” dressed in sequins?

Me: It did.

Nell: Was David wearing a blonde wig and throwing sausages into the crowd from his hat?

Me: He was.

Nell: Did Harriet tell me she was engaged to young Jim?

Me: She did, but you said that was nonsense and soon put her right.

Nell: Did Mutley tap dance on the piano?

Me: Only briefly. Dave caught him, so no bones broken.

Nell: John the Doberman didn’t perform a stand up routine though, did he?

Me: Yes. He was hilarious.

Nell: How bizarre. Did Ed fly in by helicopter to perform a few numbers?

Me: Yes. And before you ask, yes, Poppy was the pilot. Can you believe it?

Nell: Of course, I can. Poppy has been flying for years. She toyed with the idea of doing it for a living, but cooking is her real passion.

Me: Oh.

Nell: Do keep up. Now where is Poppy? We need to discuss menus as we have guests coming to lunch and England are playing Panama at 1pm.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Party preparations

Me: Where is Harriet?

Nell: Sitting by the back door gazing at the garden.

Me: Poor darling is enjoying her freedom.

Nell: Poor darling is enjoying that young farm dog serenading her over the fence.

Me: Really? How romantic.

Nell: It’s been going on since 7:30am. He has to stop soon I’ve got Saturday Kitchen to watch.

Me: That’s awfully sweet. He made her a garland of daisies you know.

Nell: Good grief. She will have to come in soon anyway. Poppy has made boiled eggs and soldiers. She and David need a good breakfast.

Me: I think Dave was hoping for sausages.

Nell: David is always hoping for sausages. He can have some at the barbecue later.

Me: How are the party preparations coming along?

Nell: A ridiculous number of people are coming. I hope the weather stays fine.

Me: The forecast is good. What’s the plan?

Nell: There will be a cream tea in the afternoon followed by canapés at 6 and then a barbecue and dancing.

Me: It sounds wonderful. What’s the entertainment?

Nell: Mutley will sing a few numbers at Harriet’s request. We managed to move his piano.

Me: Is Dave performing?

Nell: Yes, his band is supporting Mutley so they will be on first.

Me: What’s their name again?

Nell: Driftwood Bark. They’ve got quite a following.

Me: Those surfers love to sing.

Nell: Yes, but why do they have to bring their surfboards with them everywhere they go? I’m always falling over them.

Me: Any news from Charlie?

Nell: Richard Price is refusing to talk. Several of the cats are still on the run. Russian Blues, you know, we should have noticed.

Me: Is The Cat invited to the party?

Nell: Of course. Poppy is making mackerel pate especially. The Cat’s favourite.

Me: Do you think it is working for MI5 too?

Nell, Oh do stop! You are seeing spies everywhere.

Me: The farm dogs dropped off a barrel of cider. Home made. They are awfully excited about the party.

Nell: We are not drinking that disgusting stuff. They make it with rats.

Me: Your phone is ringing!

Nell: Stop panicking. It’s only Gareth again about tomorrow’s line-up.

Me: Gareth Southgate? The England football manager?

Nell: Yes, of course.

Me: You don’t know anything about football, Nell.

Nell: I managed the Rowstock Rovers for years. Do keep up. Now where’s my list?

Me: Oh, sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Harriet is free

Me: You did it! She is free!

Nell: When she came running along the beach towards me my heart stopped. It was wonderful. My darling Harriet. Where is she now?

Me: She’s with Dave and the others in the kitchen. She is quite safe. She has a soft blanket and Dave to cuddle. You sit down and I’ll get you some tea. You look exhausted.

Nell: I am, but a cup of Earl Grey and one of Poppy’s scones will soon sort me out.

Me: Poppy says she will bring a tray in. She is just making Harriet some warm milk. Dave drank the first bowl by mistake.

Nell: It’s been a long week. Is Charlie still here?

Me: He and the head Doberman have a few things to sort out. He said he will be in touch.

Nell: Yes. John is a charming Doberman. Very polite and softly spoken.

Me: Are you able to tell me what happened?

Nell: I hardly know how to put it into words. The shock. The awful shock when he came towards me with Harriet.

Me: Start at the beginning.

Nell: James dropped me off and I walked down to the beach. I could make out some figures at the other end and so I started walking towards them. The sea mist was quite thick so I couldn’t see them properly. I was holding the cufflink as agreed.

Me: You must have been terrified.

Nell: I was. As I drew nearer I saw Harriet. She had a rope around her neck and he was holding it in his teeth.

Me: Who?

Nell: Richard Price! It was Richard Price!

Me: No!

Nell: He was surrounded by hissing cats. I could hardly breathe but I kept on walking.

Me: So brave.

Nell: Suddenly there was the sound of barking and Charlie leapt out of the sea followed by a whole army of Dobermans. They had been hiding behind the rocks.

Me: Good for Charlie!

Nell: The cats fled when they saw the Dobermans and Richard Price dropped the rope. That’s when Harriet broke free and ran towards me.

Me: Oh my goodness. Did he chase her?

Nell: No. He didn’t get the chance. Charlie pinned him to the ground and the Dobermans formed a circle around them. Richard Price wasn’t going anywhere.

Me: The villain!

Nell: Yes, Charlie tied him up and he and the Dobermans took him away. Harriet and I just clung to each other.

Me: I bet you did.

Nell: We were watching them go when there was a triumphant bark behind us and David came rushing over the sand dunes wearing his hat.

Me: Bless him.

Nell: Closely followed by Poppy with her sword.

Me: Of course.

Nell: And Mutley in his DJ carrying a picnic basket. It was a wonderful sight. Harriet burst into tears and so did I. David knocked her over with kisses as usual but she didn’t care.

Me: What a relief.

Nell: Fortunately Poppy had a flask of sweet tea in the basket and the birthday cake she made yesterday. Harriet wolfed it all down with David’s help. The poor little thing was starving.

Me: I bet she was.

Nell: I could only manage some tea. Mutley fortified mine with a little brandy and drank his straight from the bottle.

Me: I’m not surprised.

Nell: We all just sat on the beach together looking at the sun over the sea and holding Harriet close. A special moment.

Me: I can imagine.

Nell: But what were they all doing there? I told them not to come.

Me: We were never going to let you go alone, Nell. Charlie told us what to do.

Nell: You just don’t listen, do you?

Me: Not this time and No, I’m not sorry.



Me: Nell, you have to come and look at Dave.

Nell: Why?

Me: He is absolutely adorable.

Nell: That isn’t his bowl.

Me: I know.

Nell: His bowl is small.

Me: Yes, I know.

Nell: Because he is still a puppy.

Me: A giant puppy but yes, you are right. But look Nell, he is just like Oliver Twist saying “Please sir, can I have some more?”

Nell: I beg your pardon.

Me: You know. One of Dickens’ most famous books. Dear little Oliver.

Nell: I know Dickens. Most Labradors do. I, myself am named after one of his heroines Little Nell. But David is not a poor starving orphan and he is certainly not little.

Me: How could anyone resist that little face.

Nell: David stole that bowl. It is mine.

Me: Perfect. Oliver was forced to steal by Fagin and the Artful Dodger.

Nell: I despair of you sometimes I really do.