New Year’s Eve

Me: You have a secret smile today, Nell.

Nell: I most certainly do not.

Me: Is it to do with Charlie?

Nell: I believe Count Bingo Flamingo may have invited Charlie to his party.

Me: I knew it. What party?

Nell: Do you never listen? It’s all everyone has been talking about for weeks.

Me: Is it?

Nell: Yes. The Count’s Curry, Canapés, Cake and Castanet Celebration.

Me: That’s rather an odd combination.

Nell: Poppy and Malcolm are doing the catering and when Harriet pointed out that spice isn’t everyone’s cup of tea they added canapés.

Me: What about cake?

Nell: You can’t have a party without cake. Don’t be silly.

Me: And castanets?

Nell: There will be a flamenco/fandango dance off.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Gladys and David are dancing the flamenco and Malcolm and Timothy the fandango. The Cat will be adjudicating.

Me: Will there be sequins?

Nell: Of course. We are all going dressed for fandango, or flamenco. David is insisting on Cuban heels.

Me: He’s going to be ever so tall.

Nell: Exactly. It’s fine for Poppy to wear her Cuban heels they go with her Toreador outfit and she needs the height.

Me: Will there be music?

Nell: Mutley will be on the piano but the exciting news is we managed to book the Gipsy Cairns.

Me: I don’t think I know them.

Nell: They are a famous group of Cairn terriers who sing in Andalusian Spanish which is odd because they come from Scotland.

Me: This has been quite a year, hasn’t it? So many wonderful new friends.

Nell: It certainly has. And next year is going to be even better.

Me: Yes. Our very own book. A huge thank you to all of you for your kind words and support. It really means the world to us.

Nell: They know. Just wish them all a Happy New Year.

Me: Yes. Happy New Year and may your dreams come true.

Nell: Did I just see David wearing Cuban heels carrying Gladys upstairs in my handbag waving my fan?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Morning thoughts

Me: Nell, can I have a quick word?

Nell: Later. You’re disturbing Morning Thoughts.

Me: What are Morning Thoughts?

Nell: Every morning I encourage the twins to sit quietly and think about the day ahead. David particularly likes to sit in the sun, if possible, as he says it makes his thoughts happier.

Me: What about Harriet?

Nell: She just likes to sit near David.

Me: Do you talk about their thoughts?

Nell: It’s not compulsory. Some thoughts are not meant to be shared, but it’s a good way of dealing with any worries. Adolescence is a difficult time.

Me: I don’t like to think of the puppies with worries.

Nell: David’s are mostly food related. Will Poppy remember that he is a growing boy and needs larger portions? That kind of thing.

Me: And Harriet?

Nell: She wants everyone to be happy which isn’t always achievable.

Me: No, I’m afraid it isn’t.

Nell: As I always say: “If you want to be bouncy sooner or later you are going to tread on someone’s tail.”

Me: Very true. Has someone’s tail been trodden on then?

Nell: Yes. The Cat got in the way of Timothy and Malcolm’s Fandango. Pablo has been teaching them.

Me: Hold on a minute. Malcolm and Timothy are dancing? And who is Pablo?

Nell: Pablo is a Portuguese Podengo. He’s one of our waiters at the cafe. Malcolm thought he was Spanish and asked to learn the flamenco but Pablo said the fandango was far superior.

Me: So a flamingo wanted to flamenco but now he is doing the fandango?

Nell: Yes.

Me: With a turkey?

Nell: Yes.

Me: And they stepped on The Cat’s tail?

Nell: Yes. But Malcolm only has delicate feet. If it had been David it would have been a different story. Now what did you want to ask me?

Me: I’ve completely forgotten.

Nell: Typical. You live in a world of your own.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Letting go

Nell: Did you have a good journey to the station?

Me: Yes. The sun was coming up so it looked very beautiful.

Nell: Was Chris’s train on time?

Me: Yes.

Nell: I would have come with you.

Me: I know but you were all warm and comfortable on your sofa.

Nell: Yes. I am feeling a little achy today.

Me: I think you overdid it on the beach yesterday evening.

Nell: Harriet and I do enjoy racing after the ball.

Me: But she’s a lot younger than you.

Nell: I am aware of that, thank you. I think I might pop down to the spa later for a steam and a massage.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: It’s end of the year aches and pains, of course.

Me: Is it?

Nell: Yes. No matter the ups and downs letting go of the year is always a little painful.

Me: True.

Nell: Might I suggest a cup of Earl Grey by the fire? Mutley has warmed your chair.

Me: That sounds perfect.

Nell: Good. David is waiting to join you for one of his special morning cuddles. Harriet has your slippers and Poppy has made fresh scones.

Me: You always seem to know exactly what I need.

Nell: Your happiness is ours. You know that. Just let go.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Going away

Me: You are going to have to talk to Dave.

Nell: Why? What have you done now?

Me: I told him Chris was going back to Canada tomorrow and he is heartbroken

Nell: Didn’t you tell him he will be back for a few more weeks on 7th Jan?

Me: I tried to, but he was too upset to listen.

Nell: I’ll talk to him. It is a typical problem. Separation anxiety.

Me: Yes. I’ve heard of it.

Nell: Most dogs struggle with the concept of time. I, myself, have a reasoned and realistic attitude. It is what it is.

Me: Well, I have known you to be impatient.

Nell: That is something else entirely. Harriet is learning patience and Mutley is the master of it. Poppy struggles. David doesn’t know what it means.

Me: Yes. The trouble is Chris has become Dave’s best friend. He adores him.

Nell: I’m afraid life is about saying goodbye.

Me: Yes, it is.

Nell: But it makes reunions all the sweeter. I choose to think we dogs are lucky. Because we feel you have been gone for ever when you’ve only gone out for some milk we are constantly delighted to have you home.

Me: Yes, you are.

Nell: So that is exactly what we will concentrate on. Chris may be going back to Canada but he will be back sooner than we think.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And we will all be as delighted as David.

Me: We certainly will.

Nell: It is what it is, you know.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Down on the beach

Me: The light was so beautiful down on the beach, wasn’t it?

Nell: Yes.

Me: The magical glow of a setting sun.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Our little island in the distance and the sound of you all splashing in the sea.

Nell: Splashing in the sea? That’s not very poetic.

Me: I couldn’t think of anything else.

Nell: Anyway, we were retrieving. Well, Harriet and I were. David was chasing seagulls and making new friends.

Me: He does love a new friend.

Nell: The Jack Russell twins were not impressed.

Me: He bounced them.

Nell: Yes. I’ve been trying to explain that a gentle approach is advisable. One should stroll calmly up to a new friend and introduce oneself with a slight wag of the tail.

Me: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dave stroll calmly.

Nell: No. He is more of a rush and bounce Labrador.

Me: He is only 18 months.

Nell: True.

Me: I don’t think I want him to change. Imagine a quiet, reserved Dave in a cape and deerstalker.

Nell: Why on earth would he be wearing a cape? He’s not Sherlock Bones.

Me: You mean Sherlock Holmes.

Nell: No, I don’t. Sherlock Bones is an extremely clever Lurcher. He lives on Dartmoor with his friend and colleague Doctor Foxhound.

Me: How do you know him?

Nell: He and I had a brief encounter many moons ago. He refers to me as “The Labrador”.

Me: How intriguing.

Nell: Yes. Now stop letting your imagination run away with you. Sherlock and I are history.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Boxing Day Hoedown

Me: Why is Harriet wearing a cowboy hat?

Nell: She’s going to the Farm Dogs’ Boxing Day hoedown with Jim.

Me: Can I go?

Nell: Of course, we are all going. Have you seen my Stetson?

Me: No.

Nell: The Cat thinks it needs a few sequins.

Me: I don’t think I have a hat.

Nell: Of course you do. It’s hanging next to all the others above the cowboy boots.

Me: I never noticed.

Nell: Poppy has been wearing her hat and boots all morning. Didn’t you wonder why?

Me: Not really. You know what Poppy is like.

Nell: True. There will be line dancing, by the way, so you might want to join Gladys’s class this afternoon. David is calling.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Malcolm has managed to persuade Timothy to give it a go. The Cat has made him a sequinned neckerchief.

Me: Is Mutley coming?

Nell: Yes. Pizza Mutt are doing the catering so Poppy can have a night off.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: Did David just walk past me in a long black coat, smoking a cheroot and carrying Gladys in my handbag?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Was Gladys dressed as a cowgirl?

Me: Yes.

Nell: And was The Cat’s chihuahua sitting on David’s hat smoking a cigarillo?

Me: Yes. I’m afraid so. Sorry.


Christmas Day

Nell: It’s too early. Go back to bed.

Me: But it’s Christmas Day, Nell. There are going to be presents and games and laughter.

Nell: Let’s save the laughter for later, shall we?

Me: Where is Timothy the turkey, by the way?

Nell: Poppy gave up her den with the soft cushion so he had somewhere quiet and warm to sleep. The poor thing was exhausted. It’s been a tough few months.

Me: Yes, I can imagine. What about yesterday evening, though? Quite the surprise.

Nell: If you mean Mutley doing a somersault mid flight then I won’t disagree. I think Ron Gilbert was a little over confident with the flying ropes.

Me: Yes, it was a little worrying.

Nell: Fortunately David was tall enough to untangle his wings and rescue his halo.

Me: But when his dress fell over his eyes it must have been quite frightening.

Nell: It wasn’t a dress. It was the Archangel’s robe. Anyway, Mutley took it all in his stride and even took a bow once he was back on the ground.

Me: I meant our surprise guests actually. When I heard that deep voice singing I knew it was Charlie.

Nell: Yes. He and Sally made quite an entrance dressed as Father Christmas and his beautiful reindeer.

Me: Dave jumped off the stage and whirled Sally around.

Nell: Yes. Charlie and I were more dignified.

Me: I saw you smooching, Nell. It was very romantic.

Nell: I must say I wasn’t expecting Michael Bouvier. I mean I know he is everywhere at Christmas but it was very kind of him to come and sing for us.

Me: Yes. Gladys and Count Bingo Flamingo can certainly move.

Nell: I think she should have removed her beard. I know she was playing Herod but it was too much.

Me: Happy Christmas darling Nell.

Nell: Happy Christmas my dear. Enough sentimentality we need Earl Grey and a couple of scones or we will never get through the day.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


It’s Christmas Eve

Me: Happy Christmas Eve, everyone. What a great photo of you all on the beach. Where’s Mutley?

Nell: He was back at the Gastrobus having a cheeky mulled wine with Ernest.

Me: Do I know Ernest?

Nell: Probably not. Elderly Jack Russell, spectacles, smokes a pipe?

Me: No. Doesn’t ring a bell.

Nell: Now we are performing the Nativity at 6pm so please make sure you take your seat in good time.

Me: Are you playing Mary?

Nell: Of course not. I am the narrator. Harriet is Mary and Jim is Joseph.

Me: Lovely.

Nell: David, Malcolm and The Cat are the Three Kings in crowns and sequinned cloaks.

Me: I didn’t imagine Malcolm as a king.

Nell: He wanted to be a shepherd but the farm dogs had already been cast.

Me: And Poppy?

Nell: She’s the Innkeeper and to be honest her performance is a little too forceful for my liking. I don’t think a sword is necessary.

Me: Is Gladys in it?

Nell: She wanted to be the Baby Jesus in my handbag but when we explained he can’t do a contemporary dance she opted for Herod.

Me: Who is Jesus then?

Nell: The Cat’s chihuahua. It’s small and well behaved.

Me: You’ve forgotten Mutley.

Nell: Of course we haven’t forgotten Mutley. He is the Archangel Gabriel. I’m not sure about flying him in but he says he will be fine.

Me: I hope so.

Nell: Ron Gilbert, the Great Dane, is stage managing with John the Doberman assisting so we are in safe paws.

Me: It’s going to be a lovely Christmas, isn’t it?

Nell: Yes, it is.

Me: We shall be thinking of those we love both near and far. Even if they can’t be with us they are here in our hearts.

Nell: Yes. Always. Now get your coat on there’s a turkey waiting to be collected.

Me: At the butchers?

Nell: No, at the station. He’s called Timothy and he needs a safe place for a few days.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


Happy Fourth Advent

Me: Well, that made Dave’s Christmas.

Nell: Yes. It was rather moving to see them reunited.

Me: Tony has recovered from his operation and is back at work but unfortunately he slipped and fell in the garden and has bruised his ribs on one side.

Nell: Yes. Poor Tony. I told David not to jump but he simply could not restrain himself.

Me: He loves Tony too much.

Nell: David does feel things very strongly.

Me: Talking of strong feelings. Any word from Charlie? I thought he and his assistant Sally might visit.

Nell: Nothing, so I presume he is away.

Me: If you will get involved with James Bond.

Nell: Do stop. Charlie might work for the Secret Service but he is not James Bond.

Me: It’s just that The Cat’s chihuahua saw a handsome German Shepherd and a beautiful Golden Retriever having a cheeky cappuccino at Starbarks by the quay.

Nell: That’s odd. Tell The Cat’s chihuahua not to say anything to David. If it isn’t Sally he will be so disappointed. He adores her.

Me: My theory is they have gone undercover to infiltrate those evil Beefies. I wonder if they were dressed as seagulls.

Nell: Dressed as seagulls? Your theories are becoming more fanciful by the minute.

Me: I just wondered.

Nell: Happy Fourth Advent by the way. You need to light all four candles.

Me: Yes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Charlie and Sally were here for Christmas?

Nell: Just light the candles. We are having family carols later and I want everything to be just right.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


The photo shoot

Me: Don’t make that face, Nell. I’m trying to take your Christmas photo.

Nell: I’m sitting on pine needles.

Me: That will be Gladys. She’s got them caught in her fur.

Nell: Didn’t she realise dressing up as the fairy on top of the Christmas tree doesn’t actually mean climbing up there?

Me: Dave got her down, though.

Nell: Only after she’d been there a few hours. I thought she was singing carols but apparently it was a call for help.

Me: Malcolm is still picking needles out of her fur.

Nell: Yes, and he is supposed to be peeling vegetables.

Me: By the way I didn’t know Dave played squash.

Nell: He doesn’t. Poppy does, of course, at national level and Mutley is an excellent player even at his age. Slow and steady. I used to play but I prefer tennis nowadays, or a round of golf.

Me: But I heard Dave talking about squash with Harriet.

Nell: That will be Butternut squash. He is making soup for the cafe. Harriet has an excellent recipe. I’m not sure he should be wearing his top hat to do it.

Me: Or tasting quite as much.

Nell: Poppy has told him repeatedly to use a spoon for tasting, not a jug.

Me: Can you try smiling now, please?

Nell: Did The Cat just walk past in a red sequinned suit?

Me: Yes.

Nell: With a small chihuahua on a lead?

Me: Yes.

Nell: I have no words.

Me: That makes a change.

Nell: I beg your pardon.

Me: Sorry.