Thank you

Me: What an amazing birthday.

Nell: Yes. Jonathan and his papa Andre were telling everyone about the seals at Hope Cove during evening cuddles.

Me: I know and then later a flypast by the Royal Owl Force.

Nell: They were on their way to Plymouth to check on the Beefies but if you choose to see it as a flypast that’s fine with me. You were wearing a sequinned hat and drinking champagne by then anyway.

Me: And all those birthday wishes. So many. Thank you to everyone they really meant a lot to me. I was overwhelmed.

Nell: Yes, people were very kind. My poem was mentioned frequently.

Me: You should consider writing more.

Nell: Excuse me? One writer in the family is quite enough. Where would we all be if I had my head in a bubble?

Me: Wasn’t Timothy a surprise yesterday? Tap dancing with Dave.

Nell: That flamingo has certainly come out of his shell. He’s gone surfing this morning with David. Ridiculous idea. I’m not sure he is a good influence.

Me: I think it’s wonderful. We should all dance and surf more. It’s my new motto.

Nell: I’m not having the surfing discussion with you again. It was bad enough watching you dancing on the table to “New York. New York” with Count Bingo and Gladys last night and as for your duet with Mutley.

Me: “I Got You Babe” is a classic.

Nell: What about Mutley’s long black wig and your moustache?

Me: We were Sonny and Cher. Do keep up.

Nell: You see. Turning 60 has gone to your head. You need a cup of Earl Grey and a lie down.

Me: Actually, I am a bit tired.

Nell: Yes, and the festivities are continuing right through the weekend. Go and snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire. Jonathan will be joining you for a story and Poppy has made some fresh scones.

Me: I might do just that.

Nell: We are having a quiet day today before Chris and Shannon arrive tomorrow. A possible trip to the Garden Centre for lunch with Alice, a walk on the beach and a quiet dinner with us all later. David has suggested charades by the fire this evening if you are up to it.

Me: Perfect. Thank you for looking after me, Nell.

Nell: It’s what I do best. Now, Harriet will bring the birthday cards for you to look at again while you wait for Jonathan. Just relax. This is your special time. I’ll get the tea. No dancing on the tables while I’m gone.

Me: No. Sorry.


You are 60 today

Nell: In honour of your birthday I have written a poem entitled “You are 60 today.”

Me: Thank you very much for putting my age in the title.

Nell: It had to be done. Are you ready to listen?

Me: Always.

Nell: ” You are 60 today

Which is old, but that’s fine.

You’ve been dreading this day

For quite a long time.

They say 60 is 50 but we know that’s not true

And it’s usually said by those younger than you.

But think of the wonderful times you have had.

Some blissfully happy,

Some terribly sad.

You wouldn’t be you without them, you see,

So embrace being 60 and listen to me.

The world you’ve created,

With my help it’s true,

Is a magical one

And we share it with you.

So Happy Birthday dear Sara,

Though you’re round and quite small

We wouldn’t change you

And you’re loved by us all.”

Me: Well, I’m in tears now.

Nell: Of course you are. Now get that sequinned hat and cloak on as the party is about to begin.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: Good swim?

Nell: Yes. Invigorating. Harriet’s retrieving skills are excellent.

Me: What about Dave?

Nell: He was off playing tag with Freddy Fulmar and the seabirds.

Me: Do I know Freddy?

Nell: He’s a baby faced bird. Plays in a local band.

Me: No sign of the Beefies then?

Nell: Not one. The owls have done an impressive job.

Me: I must say when I saw the owl formation flying over the hill yesterday I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Nell: Yes. The Royal Owl Force is certainly a sight to behold.

Me: It is. When the Beefies saw them coming they fled for the hills.

Nell: Not the hills. The sea. But Wing commander Owlgernon Featherby-Fortescue and his squadron were not going to let them get away without a fight.

Me: Yes. There were masks and wigs everywhere.

Nell: Owl Pacino was right to call them in. When I explained about your birthday and Jonathan’s visit he acted quickly.

Me: It’s a great relief. Did you say they were coming to the party tomorrow?

Nell: Obviously we can’t entertain the whole Owl Force but the Wing commander and his squadron leader Owlbert will be joining us along with Robin Hoot, Tawny Tim and Barney, of course.

Me: Is there anything I can do to help with the preparations?

Nell: Certainly not. Poppy has the catering under control. Malcolm is knee deep in macarons although I’m not entirely sure that flamingos have knees.

Me: Neither am I.

Nell: David is organising the entertainment. There will be a few surprises. All of them good ones, hopefully.

Me: Yes.

Nell: You haven’t seen a minibus arrive yet have you?

Me: No.

Nell: Only The Whippets Institute were supposed to be collecting the Dartmouth Dachshunds and the Welsh corgi choir for a rehearsal.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Now, I know a sequinned cloak isn’t usually your thing but when The Cat gives it to you just smile and put it on, please.

Me: As long as I don’t have to wear a hat.

Nell: Of course you will be wearing a hat. Don’t be silly.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Monday altercations

Me: I feel like I am being watched.

Nell: You are.

Me: Why?

Nell: Birthday preparations are going on and you are not to be trusted. There has also been an unfortunate incident down at the quay this morning and we don’t want you to become agitated.

Me: What happened? Poppy looks very focussed.

Nell: Poppy is observing David and Malcolm carrying something heavy into the garden.

Me: Oh, Crikey. Is it a dead body?

Nell: No, Miss Marple. Gladys was involved in an altercation and Poppy is taking a look at her bicycle. She’s a trained mechanic.

Me: Is Gladys alright?

Nell: Yes. A little shaken. A Beefy in spectacles and a long black wig swooped down on her near the estuary and she cycled into the water.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Fortunately a passing swan was on hand to help her out.

Me: How surprising. Swans aren’t usually helpful at all.

Nell: Yes. They can be very haughty because of their royal connections. This one, however, is perfectly delightful. He’s called Graham and he is a poet. He’s having a cup of Earl Grey in the kitchen with Timothy. They are both creatives, of course.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Now, Kev has lit the fire and Gladys will be joining you and Mutley after she has finished her warm milk and scone. David will sing a soothing song and is offering cuddles.

Me: Something must be done. This cannot continue. We can’t put the family at risk.

Nell: Calm down. Harriet has informed Robin Hoot and the owls are gathering. We need this sorted before your birthday on Wednesday.

Me: Yes. We’ve got family celebrations right through to Sunday.

Nell: I am aware. Who do you think has been organising it all?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Sunday news

Me: There’s a similarity between you and Nigella, you know. Beautiful but quite strict.

Nell: Turn that off. We need to check the Sunday papers. If they’ve arrived of course. I don’t know what possessed Gladys to take on the paper round.

Me: She needed a job.

Nell: Yes, but she is a small Pomeranian. Her feet hardly reach the peddles on that bicycle and all those hills.

Me: That’s probably why The Cat is teaching her to drive.

Nell: Yes. Although The Cat rushed in yesterday asking for a brandy so I don’t think it’s going well.

Me: The papers are here. Would you like the Sunday Growl?

Nell: Yes. They should have printed an update after we sent in the latest photos.

Me: Is there anything?

Nell: Yes. “Heartthrob Dave Martin and his friend The Cat reveal the anguish they have suffered after false accusations of muffin stealing.” I told David not to do an interview.

Me: I never noticed a reporter.

Nell: Yes. A young Jack Russell in a trilby. You must have seen him.

Me: I didn’t. There were so many owls in the kitchen.

Nell: Yes. Apparently Owl Pacino has increased the number of patrols.

Me: So they are going owl out to put a stop to it. We had better steer clear before owl hell breaks loose.

Nell: Do stop. He is sending in his son.

Me: The nest to the throne, eh?

Nell: I am trying to ignore you. Apparently, he is a really tough character.

Me: Like feather like son.

Nell: Enough. You might have heard of him. Owl Capone.

Me: He’s been dead for years.

Nell: Rubbish. He’s in the kitchen right now enjoying Malcolm’s pancakes with maple syrup.

Me: Well, owl be damned.

Nell: You are never going to get tired of this are you?

Me: No. Sorry.



Me: What are you doing by the gate?

Nell: Taking part in the RSPB Birdwatch.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: Yes. You have to spend an hour noting down any birds, or interesting creatures that land in your garden.

Me: I presume you have included Malcolm and Timothy.

Nell: Certainly not. They are part of the family. Gladys and Harriet are writing things down, although Gladys is a little confused and insists on doing everything from my handbag. “Not in the air, dear. On the ground.”

Me: It’s Tony’s birthday today, by the way.

Nell: Yes. David has made a card. I tried explaining that Tony will not be delivering the post until next week but David is still hoping.

Me: Why is Gladys jumping up and down?

Nell: “Don’t be ridiculous, dear. They can’t fly. Put your glasses on.”

Me: I didn’t know Gladys wore glasses.

Nell: Only for long distance and driving.

Me: Oh, I see.

Nell: Gladys says a large black Labrador just flew over the house.

Me: That is a little far fetched. There’s a ginger cat circling over us now, though.

Nell: Not funny.

Me: And the Labrador is back.

Nell: What? Wait a minute. That Labrador has a beak. Where’s my iBone? I need to call Robin Hoot.

Me: I would definitely record a flying Labrador with a beak if I were you. I know it’s supposed to land but you don’t see that every day.

Nell: That’s not a Labrador. It’s a Beefy wearing a mask with paws painted on its wings and a false tail.

Me: The ruffians. The cads. The buffoons.

Nell: Would you mind returning to the 21st century and taking some photos on your iBone please, so we can save David’s reputation?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


A step too far

Me: Dave looks very worried. What’s happened?

Nell: Have you seen the Daily Growl this morning?

Me: No. Why?

Nell: You had better take a look. David said he thought something was wrong when he and The Cat were down at the quay and an elderly Pug shook its stick at them. Go on read it out.

Me: “People have been asked to be on their guard after a violent attack in Kingsbridge yesterday. Retired antiques dealer, Dicky Dalmation from Bury St. Edmunds, and his wife Muriel, were walking along when a large black Labrador swooped down and stole his muffin.”

Nell: Labradors don’t swoop. Anyone knows that. Ridiculous.

Me: “It was accompanied by a ginger cat who licked all the cream off the top of Muriel’s hot chocolate.”

Nell: Unbelievable.

Me: Yes, that’s extremely rude. It’s not that I condone stealing a muffin but licking the cream is a step too far. It’s the best bit.

Nell: But who does it remind you of?

Me: Oh my goodness. Why did Dave steal a muffin? And as for The Cat. How could it?

Nell: Good grief. It wasn’t them. Someone has set them up. David is absolutely devastated and The Cat is furious.

Me: I bet it is. Everyone knows it’s not ginger, it’s a strawberry blonde.

Nell: That is not the point. Robin Hoot is on his way over now. Apparently there has been a supposed attack in Salcombe by a pair of owls and one in Dartmouth by a small flamingo and a turkey.

Me: Now, that is odd. I mean what are the chances of that happening?

Nell: Honestly, I despair of you sometimes. Someone has got it in for us and we know who that is, don’t we?

Me: Stephen Seagull and the Beefies?

Nell: Finally.

Me: But how did they do it?

Nell: We don’t know yet, but we will.

Me: Malcolm has never even been to Dartmouth.

Nell: You are missing the point.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


It’s a hard Owl life

Me: There are two small owls eating cereal in the kitchen.

Nell: Yes. It’s Tawny Tim and his colleague Barney. Malcolm is giving them their morning muesli while Poppy finishes baking scones for the patrol.

Me: Oh, I see.

Nell: It’s a hard life being an owl you know. You should try it some time.

Me: I don’t think I will, thank you.

Nell: You wouldn’t make a good owl. They are birds of great integrity. Wise and serene.

Me: I can be serene and I have moments of wisdom.

Nell: Completely delusional.

Me: Any sign of the Beefies?

Nell: None yet, but Robin Hoot says we mustn’t be complacent. They are probably planning something. Wretched creatures.

Me: Yes.

Nell: David and The Cat are going down to the Quay this afternoon to see if their numbers have increased. They like to gather there.

Me: Those owls look tired to me.

Nell: They’ve just come off the night shift.

Me: Not firing on owl cylinders then?

Nell: Do stop.

Me: In owl honesty, if owl else fails and I am needed, just let me know. I’m prepared to give it my owl.

Nell: You see while we are trying to protect Malcolm and Timothy all you can do is make silly owl jokes.

Me: You are right. Owl good things must come to an end.

Nell: Enough. Go and do some writing.

Me: Yes. That’s owl for now. Sorry.


When owl is said and done

Nell: What a charming owl.

Me: Yes. He seemed nice. Where is Dave?

Nell: Out checking the perimeters.

Me: What does that mean?

Nell: I have no idea, but Robin asked him to.

Me: Is a robin involved now?

Nell: No. Robin Hoot our owl advisor.

Me: Oh, is that his name?

Nell: Yes. I’m glad we decided to tell him the truth. We are far stronger working together.

Me: So what happened?

Nell: Apparently two of the younger owls, Tawny Tim and Barney, were out flying and noticed the hats. They reported back to HQ and Robin was sent to investigate.

Me: So where do we go from here?

Nell: Well, fortunately for us, the owls can’t stand the Beefies either, so as soon as they heard what was happening they offered to help.

Me: What did the Beefies do to them?

Nell: Stephen Seagull made disparaging remarks about their boss. A big mistake. You do not want to get on the wrong side of an owl and definitely not that one.

Me: Who is the boss then?

Nell: Owl Pacino. You must have heard of him.

Me: The name certainly rings a bell.

Nell: Anyway, Robin says it’s not a problem at all and in return for some of Poppy’s scones he can include us in their patrol.

Me: So owl’s well that ends well.

Nell: Enough.

Me: Sorry.


Harriet’s favourite time of day

Me: So, how is it all going with the owl hats?

Nell: Quiet. Mutley is reading the puppies their Morning Story. It’s Harriet’s favourite time of the day.

Me: What is he reading?

Nell: Peter Pan. Everyone is awfully worried about Tinkerbell.

Me: Gosh. I remember that. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies.

Nell: Personally I find it hard to believe.

Me: What? That there are fairies?

Nell: Of course not. That anyone would think there aren’t.

Me: True. But some people are sceptics.

Nell: Their loss. David sees himself as Peter, of course, and Harriet as Wendy. Malcolm and Timothy want to be John and Michael.

Me: How are Malcolm and Timothy, by the way?

Nell: Absolutely fine. In the best of moods. The Beefies were terrified of the owl hats. They flew off as soon as they saw them shouting: “Owl. Owl.”

Me: Brilliant.

Nell: Yes. We are all very pleased. Now who is that at the door? It’s far too early for Tony.

Me: I will go and see.

Nell: Tell them to come back later. I’m still in my dressing gown.

Me: There’s an owl outside.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Wearing a bowler hat and carrying a briefcase.

Nell: I don’t care what it’s wearing. What does it want?

Me: It’s from the council and it’s investigating a complaint about a couple of imposters.

Nell: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Me: Probably.

Nell: Right. You keep it talking while I hide the owl hats and warn the others. Stop looking so guilty.

Me: Yes. Sorry.