What are we going to do about Malcolm?

Nell: I was just explaining to Harriet that Malcolm probably can’t stay.

Me: Why? I don’t think I have ever met a more polite flamingo in my life.

Nell: You don’t know any other flamingos.

Me: I know the ones that keep shouting outside.

Nell: They want Malcolm to come home.

Me: I don’t think Malcolm wants to go home.

Nell: Harriet agrees with you. She and Malcolm had a heart to heart last night after Strictly.

Me: Did they?

Nell: Yes. Apparently Malcolm’s heart is not in it. He is struggling with being a real flamingo. He is so much smaller and quieter.

Me: He loved it when Dave and The Cat danced the samba.

Nell: Yes. But a real flamingo would have joined in. Malcolm was much happier watching from the sidelines.

Me: Maybe that’s why he wears glasses.

Nell: What on earth are you talking about? He wears glasses because he is short sighted.

Me: Where is he now?

Nell: Helping Poppy prepare the Sunday roast. We are having chicken.

Me: He’s not going to eat one of his own, Nell.

Nell: Of course he isn’t. Poppy is making him a crab risotto. One of the Dartmouth dachshunds had a crab to spare so David’s driven over to pick it up on his motorbike.

Me: Did Gladys go in the sidecar?

Nell: Yes, and The Cat. It’s the Dartmouth Food Fair so they are having a look around while they are there.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: Harriet says life is tough for the lesser flamingos. The greater flamingos boss them around.

Me: Do you think Malcolm is part of the hostile takeover?

Nell: We don’t know.

Me: I think he should be allowed to stay.

Nell: Mutley is going to have a quiet word with him after lunch. He will report back and there will be a family vote.

Me: I’m voting for Malcolm.

Nell: Have you considered the fact that Malcolm might be a spy?

Me: Isn’t he too pink and polite to be a spy?

Nell: I’m not even going to answer that question.

Me: Sorry.



Me: What have Poppy and Mutley been doing?

Nell: Chasing flamingos.

Me: Flamingos? In our garden.

Nell: Yes. But that’s not the strange thing.

Me: It isn’t?

Nell: Valerie and I picked up some prawns from Sid the Fish yesterday.

Me: That’s not strange.

Nell: No. Poppy was going to make prawn sandwiches for lunch today.

Me: Still, not strange.

Nell: She took the prawns out of the fridge this morning ready to shell and left them to put some bread in the oven. When she returned they had gone.

Me: The prawns?

Nell: No. The shells.

Me: Someone was being very helpful.

Nell: Yes. There was a small flamingo sitting in the kitchen eating shells.

Me: Yes. That is strange.

Nell: Well, even though Poppy was understandably perplexed she remained polite.

Me: Good for her.

Nell: She asked the flamingo what it was doing in her kitchen eating prawn shells.

Me: I don’t blame her. Did it answer?

Nell: Oh yes. It said its name was Malcolm and it was desperate for prawns.

Me: Why didn’t it just eat them all?

Nell: Apparently Malcolm is a very polite flamingo. He felt it only fair to leave Poppy the actual prawns.

Me: That is polite.

Nell: Poppy thought so too so she made Malcolm some tea and gave him the rest of the prawns.

Me: Good.

Nell: Unfortunately the other flamingos tracked Malcolm down and started flying around shouting. We think they used Find my iBone.

Me: Probably.

Nell: Well, Poppy wasn’t having it, so she and Mutley chased them away.

Me: Where is Malcolm?

Nell: In the kitchen finishing the prawns.

Me: Of course he is. Silly me. Sorry.


In cahoots

Nell: I’m beginning to think Mutley is right.

Me: He usually is. About what?

Nell: Flamingos. Annoying creatures and such a vulgar shade of pink.

Me: I don’t think I know any.

Nell: So Valerie and I were having a quick cappuccino and a croissant down by the quay.

Me: Do I know Valerie?

Nell: She is a French bulldog and owns patisseries all over the place.

Me: Oh, that Valerie. How do you know her?

Nell: From my time as an exchange student in Paris. We bonded over Sartre.

Me: Why is she here?

Nell: I thought she would make an excellent judge for our cake tasting panel.

Me: I see.

Nell: Anyway, we were happily chatting.

Me: In French?

Nell: Mais certainement. Where was I?

Me: Talking French and eating forbidden food.

Nell: I’ll ignore that. I look over the estuary and what do I see?

Me: Boats?

Nell: No. A flamingo. Standing on one leg.

Me: No?

Nell: Who stands on one leg in the middle of an estuary?

Me: I hope the tide was out.

Nell: Of course it was. But that’s not all. It was chatting away to the Beefies and eating a takeaway.

Me: Indian, or Chinese?

Nell: Fish and chips.

Me: Well, it’s in the right place for fish.

Nell: That is not the point. The flamingo is obviously in cahoots with the Beefies. It all makes sense.

Me: Oh. Do you think it was one of those hostile high flying flamingos from the city?

Nell: Of course. We need to tell Mutley.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Keeping your Distance

Me: Why are Poppy and the twins waiting at the top of the stairs?

Nell: I don’t think you can say David and Harriet are twins. There were eight of them.

Me: I know what I mean.

Nell: Mutley is annoyed. So they are Keeping their Distance.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Exactly. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it is best to steer clear.

Me: It is. Do we know why?

Nell: Something to do with his sandwich chain. Hostile takeover bid from some high flying flamingos in the city.

Me: I didn’t know he had a sandwich chain.

Nell: Pupways. You must have heard of it. David always goes for the footlong.

Me: Actually, I didn’t know there were flamingos in the city either.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes. Everyone knows there are flamingos in the city. Do keep up.

Me: I hope Mutley doesn’t stay grumpy for long.

Nell: So do I. David is dreadful at Keeping his Distance.

Me: I know.

Nell: Our plan is that Harriet will sit with Mutley and talk things over quietly while Poppy gets on with the baking.

Me: What about Dave?

Nell: David will go shopping with The Cat. They need to track down some edible glitter and a pumpkin. Gladys thinks hers is going off.

Me: That’s unfortunate.

Nell: Poppy wants ideas for Halloween cakes for the cafe, by the way, as we have another tasting panel coming up.

Me: I’ll have a think.

Nell: In the meantime a pot of Earl Grey is just what we need.

Me: Yes, and maybe some ghost and marmalade?

Nell: Do stop.

Me: Sorry.


Smiling again

Me: It’s so good to see you smiling again.

Nell: The beach can only make you smile.

Me: I agree.

Nell: And it’s your little sister’s birthday today.

Me: It is. Happy Birthday dear little sister. We shall celebrate at the weekend with Strictly and champagne.

Nell: Yes. Poppy intends to spoil her too. Your sister is a great favourite of hers.

Me: Lovely.

Nell: The Cat and Gladys are joining us later. We need to finalise the posters for the opening.

Me: Do we have any ideas?

Nell: At the moment it is a photo of David tap dancing in a top hat and tails with Gladys perched on a laden cake stand beside him.

Me: Interesting.

Nell: I’m not sure everyone wants a black Pomeranian on their afternoon tea, though.

Me: Maybe not. Could Gladys be dressed as a waitress and hold the cake stand?

Nell: The cake stand is bigger than Gladys.

Me: Maybe John should hold it, or Ron Gilbert?

Nell: If we don’t want a black Pomeranian why on earth would we want a huge Doberman, or a Great Dane in a cap? Give me strength.

Me: Could Gladys be perched on Dave’s hat pointing to the cake stand?

Nell: Now that is an idea.

Me: You see.

Nell: It’s just an idea. The committee still have to decide.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Miscellaneous


Me: I know you aren’t in the best of moods.

Nell: I am not.

Me: But I had to take you to see Alex yesterday.

Nell: Whatever.

Me: You needed your ear drops.

Nell: I didn’t need the shame of a public weigh in.

Me: The scales are in reception.

Nell: I didn’t need my weight discussed by all and sundry. Including a rather large Pyrenean Mountain Dog who had no business getting involved.

Me: I agree. The nurse thought you looked a little slimmer.

Nell: Do you know what it’s like to have David being Marvellous all the time and showered with treats and Harriet eating like a horse and staying slim and petite?

Me: I sort of do know, Nell, as my sisters could always eat what they liked and I never could.

Nell: I am who I am.

Me: I know and I wouldn’t change anything about you. We all love you, Nell. Would you like a pot of Earl Grey by the fire?

Nell: That would be kind. And a soft blanket, perhaps?

Me: Of course. I’ll ask Harriet to bring you the latest Good Housekeeping.

Nell: And just a few of Poppy’s shortbread biscuits?

Me: You are not supposed to have those.

Nell: I understand. Shortbread is reserved for the young and marvellous.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: At least Meghan sounded happy when she called from Australia. They gave her a kangaroo for the royal baby, you know.

Me: I’m not sure it will settle over here, Nell. Although we used to have wallabies on the Isle of Wight.

Nell: It’s a soft toy. Good grief.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Sunset swimming

Nell: There is nothing like a swim at sunset.

Me: Yes. Look at little Harriet.

Nell: We all had a great deal of fun until the incident.

Me: Do you mean that angry border collie?

Nell: It was an Australian shepherd.

Me: No. It was definitely a dog, Nell.

Nell: Very funny.

Me: I’ve never seen Poppy so angry.

Nell: It was making sizeist remarks.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: It said: “Will you look at that scruffy little thing with those labs. Thinks it’s a real dog.”

Me: Your Australian accent is ever so good.

Nell: Thank you. Anyway, when Poppy demanded an apology Paul Robinson started shouting.

Me: Paul Robinson? Are you sure that was his name?

Nell: Oh yes. He’s well known in the area. Very rich and owns a lot of land. Poppy shouted back because she can be fierce when provoked. Ask her kitchen staff.

Me: Do you mean Harriet as I didn’t know she had any kitchen staff?

Nell: No. Poppy has a whole team of terriers in her brigade. Do keep up.

Me: I never knew.

Nell: David heard her shouting and ran over. He is very protective. Just because someone is small doesn’t mean they are less. Harriet is a small lab, for instance.

Me: To be fair you are the same height as Harriet but you are curvier so you seem bigger.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: In a good way.

Nell: David demanded that Paul Robinson should apologise, or face the consequences.

Me: Yes. I bet he used his big boy’s voice.

Nell: Please don’t say things like that. Big boy’s voice. Whatever next?

Me: Did Paul Robinson apologise?

Nell: No. He left the beach.

Me: Well, Dave certainly defended his family.

Nell: He is growing into a fine young dog. Best of all his retrieving skills are greatly improved.

Me: Marvellous.

Nell: I’ve told you not to say that. Now you have to hand out a treat.

Me: Sorry.


After the Tasting Panel

Nell: Don’t wake David. He needs to rest.

Me: Why?

Nell: He found the sandwich tasting completely exhausting yesterday.

Me: How did he get on the Tasting Panel?

Nell: He wasn’t supposed to be on there but we judges were only taking a few bites so he thought he would help by finishing them up.

Me: He must have eaten a lot of sandwiches.

Nell: Yes. I believe Harriet joined in as well.

Me: Did you reach a decision?

Nell: Yes. Egg and cress came high on the list.

Me: And chicken salad?

Nell: Salad was a contentious issue. Sogginess is a problem. Greg felt wholemeal bread can cope but John wasn’t sure. There was a lot of chat about texture. I’m afraid I switched off.

Me: And Nigella?

Nell: She is all about the ciabatta. Waxing lyrical about fresh home grown tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella with a cascade of freshly torn up basil.

Me: That does sound delicious.

Nell: Well, I was forced to remind her that Poppy simply doesn’t do cascades. It’s not her style.

Me: So what did you decide?

Nell: Mutley pointed out that it is hard to beat a good ham sandwich with, or without mustard. David voted for without, because it burnt his tongue.

Me: It’s like the beef with or without horseradish dilemma.

Nell: My motto is: When in doubt go without.

Me: What about prawns, or crab? They are so fresh here.

Nell: Yes. We felt they could be included, although tuna mayonnaise was right up there with the favourites.

Me: Cucumber?

Nell: Personally I think cucumber has to be part of an afternoon tea but would never be a stand-alone choice like cheese and pickle.

Me: You are right.

Nell: The Cat’s sequinned napkins were judged pretty but impractical. Greg got one stuck on his chin.

Me: It sounds like a successful tasting.

Nell: Yes. Pastries and cakes are next.

Me: Poppy’s scones should pass the test.

Nell: Poppy’s scones aren’t up for debate. They are on the menu. Afternoon tea without Poppy’s scones? That’s like going for a walk without the dog. Unthinkable.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: It’s still very stormy out there.

Nell: Yes. Meghan said everyone was holding on to their hats at Epiphany’s wedding yesterday.

Me: Eugenie.

Nell: Yes. Odd name. I’m so glad Meghan took my advice and went for understated elegance. One doesn’t want to upstage the bride.

Me: Quite. I’m surprised you weren’t invited.

Nell: I was, but I have my paws full with the cafe and it was Tink’s birthday.

Me: True.

Me: Where are Harriet and Poppy?

Nell: They are playing Bitey Fighters, or is it Fighting Biters? I’m never quite sure.

Me: It looks fierce.

Nell: It is just a game. They need to let off steam. Poppy was up early baking bread and Harriet has been helping.

Me: But it’s Saturday. They need some time off.

Nell: We need freshly baked bread for the sandwich tasting this afternoon. You can’t expect the panel to eat shop bought bread.

Me: The panel?

Nell: Of course. John the Toad and Greg Walrus.

Me: What do they know about food?

Nell: They have been judging Masterchef for years.

Me: I don’t think you’ve got their names right.

Nell: Anyway, Mutley and I will be joining them on the panel along with Nigella.

Me: Nigella is coming?

Nell: Nigella Pawsome from the Whippets Institute. Do you know her? She has quite a following.

Me: I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

Nell: Now, David did extremely well at school and is continuing his training at home for a while before resuming adolescent classes in November.

Me: Well done, Dave.

Nell: We have a special word for good behaviour. “Marvellous.” Use it sparingly please.

Me: “Marvellous.”

Nell: You see, you never listen. Don’t just say it randomly like that. You have to follow it with a treat.

Me: Oh, I see. So, if something was “Absolutely Marvellous ” you would probably give two treats.

Nell: I give up. Just leave it to me.

Me: Sorry.


It’s Alice’s Birthday

Nell: Now, it’s your daughter Alice’s birthday today and she is far away in Berlin.

Me: Yes.

Nell: So, I thought a photo of Alice with myself and Jonathan from her last visit would be appropriate.

Me: Yes. It’s lovely.

Nell: We will be FaceTiming her later. David has prepared a dance. Gladys will join him and The Cat is playing the maracas.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Harriet will sing with Mutley on piano and I have written a poem.

Me: Can I hear it?

Nell: Certainly. Naturally I have used the name Tink as this is what we call her.

Me: Yes.

Nell: “It’s Tink’s Birthday today

So what can I say?

Except that we love her

More and more every day.

Hard to believe I know

But it’s true.

No one can love Tink more

Than we do.”

Me: That’s lovely, Nell. Thank you.

Nell: My pleasure. We all miss her.

Me: We really do.

Nell: Poppy has made a cake in honour of Tink and you are allowed the first slice.

Me: Delicious.

Nell: Kev will be lighting a fire soon due to the inclement weather and David has agreed to tell us about his exciting day at school. Fluffy socks will be worn by everyone.

Me: Everyone?

Nell: Yes. Tink loves fluffy socks. The Cat has also made sequinned hats so put yours on now. No arguments.

Me: Yes. Sorry.