Dave goes to school

Nell: Is David washed and brushed and ready to go?

Me: He is waiting downstairs but he looks a bit worried.

Nell: He is going to school whether he likes it or not.

Me: Yes.

Nell: He has to learn that life cannot only be about tap dancing, sequins and Sally.

Me: Yes.

Nell: I have repeatedly told him to work on his recall skills and he has refused.

Me: Actually, they are a little better.

Nell: The animal doesn’t listen. There is no point in sugar coating it. We need professional help.

Me: Thank goodness for Jemma at the Dog’s Trust.

Nell: Exactly. Now, Poppy has made him a packed lunch. He is allowed plain treats and special treats so we thought savoury homemade biscuits for plain and grilled sausages for special.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: He wanted ham sandwiches with the crusts off and Poppy’s scones for afters but I said no.

Me: Quite right.

Nell: He can have a scone when he gets home.

Me: You old softie.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Under that gruff exterior you are like a squishy marshmallow.

Nell: A squishy marshmallow? I worry about you sometimes. Now, David needs two of his favourite toys and a soft blanket.

Me: He’s only going for a short time.

Nell: Just pack his things and don’t argue.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: I was very taken with Sasha at lunch yesterday.

Nell: I know you were.

Me: She reminded me so much of my first dog Santa.

Nell: Yes.

Me: Santa was like a mother to my sisters and I when we were growing up. She would take us to the park and let us crawl over her. I still miss her.

Nell: They live on in our hearts.

Me: Yes, they do.

Nell: Sasha is a rescue, of course.

Me: Yes. She was run over in Turkey and abandoned badly injured.

Nell: Fortunately that charity Happy Paws rescued her and brought her over to England. She still limps but she doesn’t make a fuss.

Me: No. She has a sunny disposition like Sally. You can see she is very happy living down here in Devon with her kind owner.

Nell: Yes. I was given a treat, you know.

Me: I do know. An undeserved treat as you barked loudly at that terrier.

Nell: It invaded my personal space.

Me: Sasha is so much like Santa.

Nell: Santa is watching over you. She is a Guardian. I’ve told you this before. When we leave we never really do.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Anyway, let me give you an update on the cafe.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The Cat has agreed to sequin edged tablecloths. They should look like waves.

Me: Good.

Nell: Ron Gilbert and the Australian cattle dogs are on course with the renovations after that little hiccup. They’ve decided to take down a wall to open it up as we need a larger space.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Gladys has been promoted to site manager. Ron collects her every morning in her pumpkin and she watches over proceedings.

Me: I suppose the pumpkin lid functions as a hard hat, not that it’s needed.

Nell: Have you no thought for Health and Safety? Of course hard hats have to be worn at all times. You can’t use a pumpkin lid. Whatever next?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Don’t eat the conkers

Me: You are up early.

Nell: Yes. After yesterday’s excitement I felt the need to check on David.

Me: How is he?

Nell: He was very hungry so Poppy made him a light breakfast of scrambled egg with buttered toast.

Me: That’s good.

Nell: We are now sitting in front of the fire discussing things a dog should never eat. Harriet is taking notes.

Me: I hope conkers are top of the list.

Nell: I like to call them horse chestnuts but yes, they feature prominently.

Me: Thank goodness Kev saw him eat them and drove him straight over to the vets.

Nell: Yes. Alex gave him a swift injection and David spent a rather unpleasant few hours getting rid of the horrible things.

Me: Poor Dave.

Nell: I would like to hope he has seen the error of his ways but I think beach walks might be advisable at the moment.

Me: Is he very low?

Nell: Not at all. He was FaceTiming with Sally first thing this morning giving her all the gory details.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: If I have to hear her say: “My poor darling Davey” again I will be the one being sick.

Me: It’s young love.

Nell: On another note I made an interesting discovery last night.

Me: What?

Nell: Mutley has selective deafness.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: You know how you call him and he never hears, or I ask him something and he doesn’t answer?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Well, a few hours after David got back Kev decided that a few plain biscuits could be given as treats.

Me: Yes.

Nell: We Labradors got into our receiving treats positions. Harriet to the far left, David in the middle and myself on the right. Poppy likes to move freely, as does Mutley. It’s a terrier thing.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Well, Kev decided to try and see if Mutley remembered the whisper trick Chris taught him years ago. So he whispered “Woof”.

Me: What happened?

Nell: Mutley whispered “Woof” back. Just like the old days.

Me: But he can’t hear.

Nell: He obviously can when he wants to.

Me: A bit like you then.

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: Sorry.


Happy Thanksgiving Canada

Nell: Could you stop sighing, please?

Me: It’s a grey Monday morning thing.

Nell: When I feel low I think of my finest retrieving moments. Dashing into the sea with David and Harriet and getting to the ball first.

Me: I don’t think I have any finest moments.

Nell: Everyone does. Stop being self indulgent and wish the people of Canada a Happy Thanksgiving.

Me: Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Look after son Chris.

Nell: You see, you just couldn’t resist adding that, could you?

Me: Chris is far away in Toronto.

Nell: Do stop. He is absolutely fine and he is coming home for Christmas.

Me: Yes. He is.

Nell: There will be a Christmas tree and crackers and a turkey.

Me: The Canadians are eating turkey right now.

Nell: Good grief. It’s the middle of the night over there. Give them a chance.

Me: I always forget the time difference.

Nell: Poppy just called out from the kitchen. She wants some pumpkin pie recipes for the cafe, please.

Me: Good idea. Actually we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we?

Nell: We certainly do. Our family and friends. Our lovely home. The sea.

Me: Happy Thanksgiving Nell.

Nell: Happy Thanksgiving. Enough of that, we have a lot to do today. Poppy wants the opening of the cafe to be a Halloween theme and pumpkins need hollowing out.

Me: I know it sounds silly but that pumpkin over there is looking at me.

Nell: It’s only Gladys. She fell in and decided to stay. Makes a change from my handbag.

Me: I see. Sorry.



Me: What’s the matter with Dave?

Nell: He was dancing the Pasa Doble with Gladys and The Cat until gone 2am and now he is overtired and sulky because I’ve told him to rest.

Me: He won’t like that.

Nell: I’m in two minds about letting him watch Strictly to be honest.

Me: Why?

Nell: He gets inspired. He’s never seen The Matrix so yesterday’s routine was all new to him with the slow motion sequences and the long coat. It was groundbreaking at the time, of course.

Me: I didn’t know you had seen it.

Nell: Keanu and I are very close. He asked me to watch some of his older films and I was happy to oblige.

Me: When was this?

Nell: I was living in L.A. at the time so it’s a few years ago now.

Me: What were you doing there?

Nell: Working for Warner Bros as a buyer. Why all these questions?

Me: Gosh. There is so much I don’t know.

Nell: Ask Poppy. She was out there too as a guest chef with Wolfgang Pug.

Me: Really?

Nell: Yes. Ron Gilbert and The Cat have resolved their differences, by the way.

Me: Oh good.

Nell: The doors are going to be duck egg blue on one side and turquoise on the other.

Me: I’m not sure about that, Nell.

Nell: It’s the least of our worries. The Cat wants sequinned tablecloths. How are we going to get jam out of those?

Me: I have no idea.

Nell: Did David just walk past us in slow motion wearing a long sequinned coat carrying Gladys in my handbag?

Me: Yes. He’s awfully good. Look at those moves.

Nell: What on earth are you wearing and why are you waving your arms around?

Me: It’s Kev’s long coat. I felt inspired.

Nell: If Mutley comes in here wearing a long black coat I’m going back to bed.

Me: Mutley’s coat is dark blue, actually, but Harriet’s is black.

Nell: That’s it. I’m washing my hands of all of you. Ask Poppy to bring my tea upstairs.

Me: It might take some time as she keeps tripping over her coat. She borrowed it from John.

Nell: Enough.

Me: Sorry.


Gladys gets an ombré

Me: I thought you were going to check on the cafe.

Nell: Don’t mention the cafe. After yesterday’s fiasco we are all exhausted.

Me: What happened?

Nell: Gladys and I went to check on the decorating and walked in on a full scale row between The Cat and Ron Gilbert.

Me: Gladys walked?

Nell: Not at first but when the paint hit my handbag she jumped out.

Me: What was going on?

Nell: The Cat was waving one of those large rollers around screaming and spraying everywhere with paint.

Me: And Ron Gilbert?

Nell: He was striding around in a dust sheet like a Roman emperor in a toga.

Me: Was he wearing a crown?

Nell: Of course he wasn’t wearing a crown. He is a builder and decorator. He was trying to avoid the paint.

Me: Where were the Australian cattle dogs?

Nell: Hiding behind the paint pots playing didgeridoos. Why on earth they thought that was helpful I do not know. They make a dreadful noise.

Me: I wish I’d been there.

Nell: The Cat refused to listen to reason so I called David and he and Harriet came over on his motorbike. Luckily they kept their helmets on as the paint kept flying.

Me: What was it about?

Nell: The colour scheme. I told you The Cat wanted turquoise but Ron Gilbert went for the duck egg blue.

Me: That was naughty.

Nell: David eventually managed to calm The Cat down and took it home for some tea and one of Poppy’s flapjacks.

Me: What did you do?

Nell: Harriet and I tried to reason with Ron Gilbert and that’s when he did a dreadful thing.

Me: What?

Nell: He dipped Gladys in the paint pot and rolled her on the door.

Me: Oh no!

Nell: He thought she was a brush. When she squealed he jumped in the air. Anyway, he couldn’t have been more sorry. He insisted on carrying her home.

Me: He must have looked awfully silly carrying a handbag.

Nell: He carried her on his back. I wasn’t having paint in my handbag.

Me: Is Gladys alright?

Nell: Yes. She quite likes her blue tipped ends. She says it’s like an ombré although I think it’s more of a balayage myself.

Me: I didn’t know you knew about hairdressing.

Nell: Of course I do. Nicky Bark and I used to work together. Do keep up.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


Poppy’s Flapjacks

Me: Why do I have to wear a hat?

Nell: Poppy is wearing her chef’s hat.

Me: I know but I’m only watching and listening.

Nell: We don’t want your hair getting in the flapjack mixture.

Me: That’s a bit rich, Nell, coming from someone whose hair gets everywhere.

Nell: I shall ignore that. The list of ingredients are:

100g or 4oz Demerara sugar

100g or 4 oz butter

3 tablespoons/ 3 x 15ml of golden syrup

175g or 6 oz porridge oats

50g or 2 oz desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon/5ml of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon/2.5ml of salt

1 egg, beaten

Me: I’ll never remember that.

Nell: Just watch. Now Poppy has put the sugar, butter and golden syrup in a saucepan and is heating it gently until it melts.

Me: It already smells lovely.

Nell: No tasting. Poppy is now removing it from the heat and stirring in the other ingredients.

Me: I can’t remember what they are.

Nell: Just read our conversation later.

Me: Ok.

Nell: Poppy has a shallow greased square 20cm/8in baking tin and is pressing the mixture into it.

Me: That looks like fun.

Nell: She will now bake it in a moderate oven 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4 for approx 20 mins or until it is golden and firm to touch.

Me: So it could be 17 mins?

Nell: It could and oven temperatures vary. After approx 20 mins Poppy will remove it, leave it for 5 mins and cut it into squares. When it is completely cold it can be loosened with a palette knife and each square lifted out and served.

Me: It’s an awfully long time to wait.

Nell: Stop being impatient. I have some phone calls to make and Poppy will have a well earned cup of tea and rest her paws.

Me: What about me?

Nell: You go and write it all down. This recipe is to be shared with everyone. By the time you are done they will be ready.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


It’s a bit of a grey day

Me: It’s a bit of a grey day.

Nell: I’ve told you before. You need to go down to the sea. Poppy and I are invigorated. There is nothing like salty sea fur.

Me: I did paddle accidentally.

Nell: Yes. We shall go again later and remember to take your shoes off next time.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Now, Ron Gilbert is making excellent progress with the decorating at the cafe.

Me: Good.

Nell: He is actually rather creative under that gruff Great Dane exterior. He and The Cat had quite an argument about colours. He favours duck egg blue and The Cat is leaning towards turquoise.

Me: Did the Australian cattle dogs join in?

Nell: Of course not. They don’t care about which shade of blue the doors are. They are far too busy sawing things in half and climbing ladders.

Me: No. It’s all about throwing another shrimp on the barbie with them.

Nell: I don’t know what you are talking about. There is no point in barbecuing shrimps they are far too small. You need a good sized prawn, or a lobster, preferably marinated or brushed with garlic butter.

Me: What if you don’t like fish?

Nell: Then have a sausage. Why are we discussing barbecues anyway? It’s the wrong time of year and I was talking about decorating.

Me: Yes.

Nell: As we are discussing food, Poppy thinks flapjacks are a good idea so I thought I might catch two terriers with one lead and teach you how to make them.

Me: Don’t you mean kill two birds with one stone?

Nell: No. Why on earth would I want to kill a bird. I’m not keen on the Beefies but violence is definitely not the answer. Stop changing the subject.

Me: I don’t cook sweet things.

Nell: You are going to learn and be thankful. Poppy doesn’t normally share her recipes with anyone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


What makes a good listener?

Nell: Chris is an excellent listener. It’s a shame he lives so far away.

Me: What makes a good listener?

Nell: Good question. David isn’t much of a listener. He’s too impatient. He gets up and walks away while you are still talking.

Me: I know what you mean. We all need to be heard.

Nell: Harriet is very good at listening but sometimes she needs to confide and Chris knows that.

Me: Yes. It’s knowing when to listen.

Nell: Gladys is a surprisingly good listener.

Me: Is she?

Nell: Yes. We often go out together now. Sometimes by accident to be honest, as I don’t always realise she is in my handbag.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Yesterday, for instance, we were in Waterbones looking at books when a portly corgi in a Balmoral bonnet said to her friend: “That lab is talking to its handbag.”

Me: How rude?

Nell: Well, I wasn’t having it. I strolled over and said: “Excuse me, madam, but I think you will find I am talking to a black Pomeranian. Not that it is any of your business.”

Me: What did the corgi say?

Nell: She turned on her paws and left.

Me: Poppy is rubbish at listening.

Nell: Poppy is too busy to listen. She has her paws in far too many pies.

Me: Mutley likes to listen.

Nell: Mutley is deaf. He can’t hear a word you are saying so he usually just nods to keep you happy.

Me: You don’t always listen.

Nell: I think a pot of Earl Grey is needed.

Me: You have selective hearing. You know you do.

Nell: And a few biscuits.

Me: You only hear what suits you.

Nell: Digestive biscuit, or shortbread?

Me: Shortbread.

Nell: Good choice.

Me: You see. You heard me then.

Nell: You are a good listener.

Me: Thank you.

Nell: The only problem is you tend to write things down.

Me: I know I do.

Nell: And then you share it with everybody. So some things are safer shared with Gladys if you know what I mean.

Me: You’re right. Sorry.


Let’s embrace Autumn

Me: Look at Dave and Harriet. How adorable are they?

Nell: Was that really only a year ago?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Goodness me. How time flies.

Me: Yes. Summer is over. The nights are drawing in.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: No more flip flops and shorts.

Nell: You don’t like flip flops.

Me: Just thick jumpers and heavy boots.

Nell: Speak for yourself.

Me: Hang on. It’s October.

Nell: Yes.

Me: We can walk on our beach again.

Nell: Yes.

Me: We can stride along the cliff tops with the wind in our hair.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: We can gallop along the beach kicking up the surf.

Nell: I blame Poldark for the galloping nonsense.

Me: All dogs are free to roam where they wish.

Nell: There will be no roaming, thank you very much.

Me: We need to embrace autumn and the joy it brings.

Nell: I think embrace is a little flowery but I am certainly willing to enjoy a brisk walk on our beach and a swim in the sea.

Me: What are we waiting for? Let’s be off.

Nell: Poppy has to get the chicken casserole in the oven. Mutley is on a Skype call to Hong Kong. Harriet is working on spreadsheets and David is sewing sequins with The Cat.

Me: Oh.

Nell: I’m sure we will all be free after lunch though.

Me: Yes. Sorry.