The Big Plan

Me: Dave’s patrolling the garden.

Nell: Yes. It’s part of his duties.

Me: Why?

Nell: As Head of Security, David is essential to the success of our Big Plan.

Me: Dave is Head of Security?

Nell: Of course. Since he developed his Big Boy Bark and finished his martial arts training with Chris he is well equipped.

Me: I see. What exactly is the Big Plan?

Nell: We came up with it at our family meeting yesterday. I knew The Cat and its staple gun would be useful.

Me: So its all about the threat from the Beefies?

Nell: Yes. We can’t have Malcolm and Timothy attacked by wild Beefies hurling macarons and stale scones.

Me: Certainly not.

Nell: They are afraid to set foot outside.

Me: Dreadful.

Nell: Fortunately we have found a way to protect them.

Me: How?

Nell: Owl hats.

Me: Owl hats?

Nell: Yes. We turned to Poodle, as everyone does nowadays, and if you poodle a seagull you can get a lot of information.

Me: Don’t you mean google?

Nell: No. We all use Poodle. Anyway, it seems seagulls are scared of owls.

Me: Are they?

Nell: Yes, and that’s where the hats come in. Fortunately Timothy is quite the artist. Who knew?

Me: I certainly didn’t. Why do you need an artist?

Nell: For the owl faces of course. Do keep up. Timothy has drawn owl faces on pieces of cloth from The Cat’s dressing up box and we have fixed them on to their hats.

Me: Using The Cat’s staple gun?

Nell: Exactly. All Timothy and Malcolm need to do is to remember to put their hats on when they go outside.

Me: So the Beefies will think there are owls walking round the garden looking at the sky with long spindly legs?

Nell: I wouldn’t have put it quite like that but it should do the trick.

Me: Have they tried it out yet?

Nell: No, but they are poised at the door right now in their owl hats waiting for David to give the go ahead.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: Quiet. David just barked. They are going out.

Me: Ok. Sorry.


A Sunny Sunday Sandy Dog Face

Me: Nothing beats a sunny Sunday sandy dog face.

Nell: I’m impressed you were able to say that this early in the morning.

Me: So am I. You are such a beautiful dog, Nell.

Nell: You are very kind.

Me: Even though you were actually concentrating on my fish finger sandwich.

Nell: Someone had to. There were a couple of enormous Beefies just waiting to steal it.

Me: How did those seagulls become Beefies?

Nell: They joined the Plymouth gang. Stephen Seagull only recruits the biggest bullies and baddies so they are a thoroughly nasty bunch.

Me: Timothy is terrified of them.

Nell: With good reason. They particularly dislike turkeys.

Me: That’s a bit unfair.

Nell: They don’t understand the meaning of fair. They aren’t keen on flamingos either. Do you know they threw a macaron at Malcolm?

Me: No?

Nell: Fortunately David caught it and ate it. He said it was definitely one of Malcolm’s he could tell by the texture and flavour.

Me: Malcolm does make a good macaron.

Nell: That’s not the point. We need to put a stop to this behaviour. Timothy is traumatised enough without risking his life every time he goes out.

Me: I agree.

Nell: Time for a family meeting. Could you make sure The Cat is invited and ask it to bring its gun?

Me: I can’t condone violence, Nell. No firearms.

Nell: It’s a staple gun. This isn’t High Noon you know. We aren’t about to have a showdown at the High Chaparral.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: Harriet looks a bit shellshocked.

Nell: Of course she does. I’m not feeling my best either.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Talk about an anti climax.

Me: I know.

Nell: I had my hat on. Gladys was in my handbag. Poppy had made a few sandwiches just in case. I was ready to go.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And then Kev said he was just taking the puppies and Poppy and I were going to the vets on Monday.

Me: He thought it would be easier.

Nell: Well, I ate one of the sandwiches there and then. And so did Gladys.

Me: I don’t blame you.

Nell: You were about as much use as a gravy boat.

Me: Excuse me?

Nell: A boat made of gravy. Useless.

Me: I think you mean a chocolate teapot.

Nell: I think I do not.

Me: Anyway, why?

Nell: Upstairs in your writing bubble. In another world.

Me: I’ve got a lot of writing to do at the moment for the book.

Nell: Anyway, aren’t you wondering why Harriet is looking so shocked?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Emily the vet says she has to lose 2 kilos.

Me: Harriet?

Nell: Yes. David does too. He’s 44 kilos and should be 42. But he doesn’t care. He says he’ll just go surfing and skip Muttdonalds for a while. Personally I think he has a fine figure.

Me: He does. But Harriet only weighs 27 kilos.

Nell: Apparently 25 is the goal. So she is on a diet. She refused one of Poppy’s scones and asked for a piece of carrot.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: As I said to Poppy: “Where does this leave me?”

Me: Quite.

Nell: I’m not sure I was ever 25 kilos. This is all too much. I’m a veteran from 14th March you know. I will be 7.

Me: Yes.

Nell: A veteran needs the occasional scone. Ask anyone and they will agree.

Me: Except Emily the vet.

Nell: Not funny.

Me: Sorry.


Let the puppies go first

Nell: I was pleased with David on the beach today.

Me: Why?

Nell: He was quietly Marvellous and looked to me for guidance.

Me: That’s good.

Nell: Harriet, however, was wildly Marvellous. Rushing around and jumping in the air.

Me: Oh dear. But she does love the sea. She missed it so much when she hurt her leg.

Nell: We all love the sea. Well, Poppy can be conflicted. She prefers to keep her fur dry.

Me: Mutley enjoyed his paddle.

Nell: He did and he bumped into Bob which was a nice surprise.

Me: Do I know Bob?

Nell: He’s a retired Border Terrier. Ex services.

Me: Does he have a brother called Barney?

Nell: I don’t think so.

Me: Only Barney who stole your ball at Hope Cove was a Border Terrier.

Nell: Honestly, I despair of you sometimes. Do you think we are all related? Is that long legged Labrador over there my cousin?

Me: I doubt it, if it has long legs.

Nell: I shall ignore that comment. Poppy and I have agreed to go second, by the way.

Me: When?

Nell: At the vet’s this afternoon. Kev said he is taking us in to the vet in batches while you stay in the waiting room with the others.

Me: Did he?

Nell: Yes. You are awful with needles. Poppy and I decided it wouldn’t be fair for the puppies to hear our cries of pain knowing they have to go in next, so we will let them go first.

Me: Cries of pain? You hardly noticed the injection last time.

Nell: If that’s what you prefer to think it’s fine with me.

Me: But you ate a treat and licked his hand.

Nell: A Labrador never refuses a treat and always shows thanks. You know that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: You are looking very regal this morning.

Nell: Am I?

Me: Yes, and I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but also a little bit stern.

Nell: Really? Why do you think that is?

Me: I’m getting the feeling it’s something I’ve done.

Nell: Surely not.

Me: You might as well tell me.

Nell: You reduced my morning portion of biscuits.

Me: Oh, you noticed.

Nell: Of course I noticed. David and Harriet have full bowls and I have a teacup’s worth. It barely covered the base of the bowl.

Me: That’s an exaggeration. I only reduced it slightly. I’m just looking out for you. It happens to us all as we get older.

Nell: What exactly? I know my fur has grown thicker since moving to Devon and my chin a little greyer.

Me: And you are a tiny bit portly.

Nell: Portly? I am not a corgi you know.

Me: Of course not.

Nell: If you think I am going to subject myself to a public weigh in again you are very wrong.

Me: I wish the scales weren’t in reception too.

Nell: Would you like your weight discussed by all and sundry?

Me: I couldn’t think of anything worse. But you are booked in tomorrow I’m afraid. Everyone is actually, as it’s time for your yearly vaccinations.

Nell: Oh good. Pain as well as humiliation.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: It’s quite quiet down here this morning.

Nell: Yes. David is upstairs on your bed with Poppy being Caring.

Me: Is Poppy alright with that?

Nell: Not entirely. I think she was going to have a nap after breakfast service.

Me: What does Caring involve?

Nell: In David’s case it is usually Cuddling but as we know he isn’t truly aware of his strength and size.

Me: Tell me about it. When he gets on my lap I can hardly breathe.

Nell: Yes. I think I am going to have to introduce the concept of Squashing at his next lesson.

Me: Don’t squash Dave though, Nell. Painful as they can be, his cuddles are really lovely. He just doesn’t move when I ask him to.

Nell: Yes. It is all linked to David’s main weakness which is Listening.

Me: What do you mean? Dave listens to me.

Nell: David has an excellent Listening face.

Me: He does. I talk to him a lot.

Nell: Yes. But he isn’t actually Listening to you. He is usually Thinking. Mainly about sausages, scones, surfing, or Sally.

Me: Thank goodness you listen to me.

Nell: I wonder if Poppy made some fresh scones before she went for her lie down.

Me: You are listening, aren’t you?

Nell: I need to remember to wear my hat when I go out later. It’s raining quite hard.

Me: You aren’t listening to me either.

Nell: Of course I am. I can multitask you know.

Me: Multitasking means doing two different things.

Nell: Exactly. Listening and Thinking. Do keep up.

Me: Oh, I see. Sorry.


Our island

Me: Wasn’t the tide far out that day, Nell?

Nell: Yes. We could almost walk to the island.

Me: Amazing. Symbolic even.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Let the tide flow out and you too can reach your island.

Nell: What are you trying to say?

Me: I’m not sure.

Nell: Just leave all that to me.

Me: Yes. Probably best.

Nell: You often get like this at this time of the year.

Me: Philosophical?

Nell: No. Maudlin.

Me: I’m just mulling over life.

Nell: No. You are just thinking about getting older because it’s your birthday soon.

Me: I don’t like it.

Nell: Nobody does. But that’s the way it works. Personally I wear my grey chin with pride.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And Mutley’s white face is a thing of beauty.

Me: It is.

Nell: So let’s embrace the going out of the tide because then we can fully appreciate our island.

Me: That’s what I said.

Nell: It’s what you meant to say.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Monday plans

Me: Harriet and Poppy are so sweet together.

Nell: Yes. Poppy was having a touch of the Monday blues so Harriet decided she needed a lie down and a cuddle.

Me: I find a cuddle usually helps.

Nell: Yes, although a cup of Earl Grey and one of Poppy’s scones works rather well too.

Me: Have you got any plans for today?

Nell: I’m seeing the girls for a light lunch after my Pilates class. Gladys is joining us.

Me: Isn’t she riding the waves this morning?

Nell: Too messy, apparently, which is rich coming from Gladys. Have you seen the state of my handbag?

Me: Chris just texted. He has flown to Berlin to make a surprise visit to Alice and Jonathan Sky.

Nell: How lovely. I hope he takes photos.

Me: He will. It’s been over a year since he saw them.

Nell: Have you seen David this morning? The Cat has finished his winter waistcoat.

Me: He said he was going down to the quay to meet a friend.

Nell: I hope it isn’t Budleigh Salterton.

Me: No, I think he said Kingsbridge.

Nell: No. Budleigh is a Basset hound from Beesands. A real old sea dog. He is teaching David some sea shanties so he can impress Tony.

Me: That’s kind of him.

Nell: But he is dreadfully scruffy and always smells of drink.

Me: You are very judgemental.

Nell: Don’t come running to me when David starts smoking a pipe and demanding rum with his supper.

Me: Gosh. I hope not. He was wearing a beard when I saw him, though.

Nell: A beard? David with a beard? And you didn’t say anything?

Me: No. Sorry.


Goodbye again

Me: What were you all doing?

Nell: Waiting for Chris so we could say goodbye.

Me: Oh.

Nell: Did you think we didn’t know? The huge rucksack was a clue.

Me: Well, I knew you would be sad that Chris had to leave today but the good news is he will be back at the beginning of February.

Nell: I know. For your birthday weekend. He told me. He has to work in London before he goes back to Toronto.

Me: Yes. Why didn’t you tell me you knew?

Nell: Because I didn’t want you doing that counting the days before he leaves thing. You know what you’re like.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Live in the moment. Savour the biscuit instead of wondering when you’ll get the next one.

Me: You are right, although I don’t see you doing much savouring when it comes to biscuits.

Nell: Anyway, what are you going to do with the rest of your day?

Me: I might do some writing.

Nell: Good idea. Poppy says there is roast beef for lunch with Mutley’s favourite Yorkshire puddings.

Me: Lovely.

Nell: We carry our loved ones with us you know. No matter where they may be.

Me: Yes, we do. Sorry.


David wants to join the crew

Me: Look at Dave and Tony the Postman. They are so sweet together.

Nell: Yes. Although The Cat is a little annoyed.

Me: Jealousy?

Nell: Not entirely. David was in the middle of a fitting for a winter waistcoat when he heard Tony’s van arrive.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: So he just leapt up and rushed out to greet him. There were sequins everywhere.

Me: I’m not sure sequins belong on a winter waistcoat.

Nell: We are talking about The Cat here. Gladys has sequins on her bathing cap.

Me: I didn’t know she wore one.

Nell: It’s a ridiculous thing but The Cat says it makes her look more streamlined when she’s wearing her wetsuit.

Me: Was The Cat very angry with Dave?

Nell: You know David. No one can ever be angry with him for long.

Me: I know. When he gives you that sad little look you just can’t stay cross.

Nell: Ah yes. David is the master of the “I’m awfully sorry I don’t know how it happened” look.

Me: He is.

Nell: Harriet has more of a wide eyed innocent “Who me?” look.

Me: Yes.

Nell: By the way David wants to audition for Tony’s sea shanty crew.

Me: The “Old Gaffers”?

Nell: Don’t be so rude.

Me: No. That’s their name. They perform all over the place. They even have a Facebook page.

Nell: Anyway, David seems to think he would fit in perfectly. I hope Tony lets him down gently.

Me: You never know, Nell.

Nell: Firstly David is not even remotely old, secondly he is a Labrador.

Me: He could be their salty sea dog.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: I can see him now in navy blue with a little sequinned hat on his head singing his heart out. People would love it.

Nell: Just stop. You are getting carried away again.

Me: Yes. Sorry.