Bad news

Me: Nell, look at me please.

Nell: I need to be alone. This is hard to accept.

Me: Charlie is going to get through this.

Nell: Congestive Heart Failure due to Mital Valve disease.

Me: Yes, but the cardiologist could find no dangerous heartbeats and his heart has only just gone into heart failure so it will hopefully remodel to a certain extent.

Nell: My poor Charlie.

Me: The tablets are helping already. He isn’t panting anymore.

Nell: Does Sally know?

Me: Yes. Dave called her on his iBone. She is handling everything at work.

Nell: No more James Bond.

Me: Not in the conventional sense maybe, but there is a lot you can do from your desk nowadays and you will be there for him.

Nell: Yes. I need to pull myself together. The main thing is the vets know what is wrong and we can deal with it. He just needs to adjust.

Me: Harriet says he is asking for you. She and Mutley are with him. Malcolm is making soup and Poppy has baked some fresh scones for everyone.

Nell: Yes. Just give me five minutes. I don’t want him to see my distress.

Me: He will understand. He knows how much you care about him.

Nell: Yes. Who needs James Bond when you can have Charlie Shepherd.

Me: Exactly. The Cat popped round earlier with flowers from its garden.

Nell: How kind. Did David just walk past in a long white coat and stethoscope with a basket of fruit and Gladys in my handbag wearing a nurse’s hat?

Me: Yes, he did. They make Charlie smile.

Nell: Good. We will get through this together.

Me: We will. I am so sorry.


Something is wrong with Charlie

Me: How is Charlie?

Nell: Still sleeping. Something is wrong. I know it.

Me: Try not to worry. The vet will sort it out.

Nell: Yes. Poppy is making him scrambled eggs for lunch with lightly buttered toast. He doesn’t have much of an appetite.

Me: Dave has offered to finish anything left over.

Nell: Yes. Clearing Up is one of his skills. Harriet has offered to read to Charlie if his eyes are too tired.

Me: Bless her. Has Sally gone back to London?

Nell: Yes. David is lucky to have such a capable girlfriend.

Me: I think she is lucky to have Dave. Such a handsome and loving boy.

Nell: A ball of wool arrived for Malcolm this morning, by the way.

Me: Very strange. I wonder who the sender is.

Nell: It’s definitely not the Mallard.

Me: Shall I make you a cup of Earl Grey tea? You can rest by the fire with Mutley until Charlie wakes.

Nell: Yes. Thank you.

Me: He probably just needs to rest, you know.

Nell: I kept telling him to slow down but he wouldn’t listen. Always off somewhere.

Me: I know. If you will fall in love with James Bond, Nell.

Nell: I’m afraid his James Bond days might be over. But I can’t see him settling in to a quiet life.

Me: We are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s wait and hear what the vet says first.

Nell: You are right. Sorry.

Me: No need for sorry, Nell. Never any need from you.



Me: There is something irresistible about a sandy nosed dog.

Nell: I was actually making sure Harriet didn’t take the ball.

Me: Yes, she has started running off with it. Little scallywag.

Nell: You do realise she is as tall as me now.

Me: She doesn’t have your curves, though. Although the new you is far less curvy.

Nell: I met Alex the vet on the beach, you know. He was off surfing, or something of that nature. He is very pleased with my weight loss and told me to keep up the good work.

Me: It’s a shame he is leaving at the end of the month but the other vets are very nice too.

Nell: I think Charlie needs to see a vet. I thought we might book him in.

Me: Why?

Nell: I’ve noticed his breathing is laboured. He is only 7 and this shouldn’t be happening.

Me: He might prefer a London vet.

Nell: I would prefer a scone to a carrot but you don’t hear me complaining.

Me: Well, that’s not strictly true, now is it? You were moaning away about no pasta and too many vegetables at dinner last night.

Nell: It was called chicken pasta. It’s not unreasonable to expect to see some in your bowl. One doesn’t order a ham sandwich and expect to find a lonely slice of ham, a slice of tomato and some limp lettuce on one’s plate.

Me: The lettuce doesn’t have to be limp.

Nell: It’s all about expectations. Don’t offer a dog a bone if you are going to give it a biscuit. It would have been happy with a biscuit if you hadn’t mentioned the bone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


It’s Changing the Beds Day

Me: Look what I found in the kitchen.

Nell: Saturday is Changing the Beds Day so it must have been too much for them.

Me: It’s not their job to strip the beds.

Nell: I know but David finds it very exciting. I think we will run the sheets through twice, though.

Me: Good idea. How is Charlie?

Nell: Tired, but willing to stay a few days. I am going to sit him down in front of the fire with the papers and a pot of coffee.

Me: Just what he needs.

Nell: Yes, it is one of those rainy days where you simply need to give in and relax.

Me: Like Poppy and Dave?

Nell: I prefer an armchair, or sofa but Egyptian cotton has its attractions.

Me: Do you know why The Cat is wearing a moustache?

Nell: It’s going through a Freddie Mercury phase. It went to see Bohemian Rhapsody with David and Gladys.

Me: So that’s why Gladys is learning the Fandango.

Nell: Probably. One never knows with Gladys. Malcolm received another present from his admirer, by the way.

Me: Really. What was it?

Nell: A box of ping pong balls.

Me: How very strange.

Nell: I don’t think a Mallard would send that.

Me: Not unless it was a keen table tennis player.

Nell: Don’t be silly. Have you ever seen a Mallard play table tennis? Mallards are all about water polo. Everyone knows that. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Poppy’s Palace

Nell: Where is Poppy?

Me: In her palace.

Nell: She doesn’t have a palace.

Me: Yes, she does. At the top of a mountain with a drawbridge to keep out wild beasts.

Nell: I am presuming by wild beasts you mean David and possibly Gladys and the palace is her bed on the chair with a footstool in front of it.

Me: Stop being so literal. Do you know why she is there?

Nell: She injured her hip at karate class and Alex the vet says no walks for a week. I told her to be careful of those high kicks but she wouldn’t listen.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: So it’s all paws on deck in the kitchen as she will need help. Fortunately Malcolm is extremely energised at the moment.

Me: Love can do that for you. Where is Charlie?

Nell: In a meeting with Sally. Some crisis. I think he is looking tired. He almost fell asleep during dinner.

Me: Sally is glowing as usual. She and Dave make a lovely couple.

Nell: Yes. I was looking at Harriet and Jim the Farm Dog and thinking that the young ones are nicely settled.

Me: Yes. It is lovely to see. Maybe you can persuade Charlie to stay on for a while. He could do with some sea air and Poppy’s cooking not to mention spending time with you.

Nell: Yes. You are right.

Me: I just want you to be happy, Nell.

Nell: I know.

Me: Maybe we should imprison Charlie in a palace and pull up the drawbridge so he can never leave.

Nell: There you go again. And you were doing so well.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Happy Valentine’s Day

Me: Happy Valentine’s Day.

Nell: I’m sticking my tongue out.

Me: I know but you still look beautiful.

Nell: Where is your red hat?

Me: Can I put it on later, please?

Nell: Kev is wearing his.

Me: He used to be an actor. He loves hats.

Nell: The big news is that Malcolm has received two Valentine cards.

Me: No?

Nell: One is from Susan but the other one is anonymous.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: There is a Mallard from Modbury who comes into the cafe every day for one of Malcolm’s macarons so she seems most likely.

Me: What about Timothy?

Nell: Timothy isn’t interested in Malcolm.

Me: No. Did he get any Valentine’s cards?

Nell: Not yet, but there is still time.

Me: Have you heard from Charlie, by the way?

Nell: Nothing at all.

Me: That’s odd because there is a rather handsome German Shepherd at the front door.

Nell: Very funny.

Me: Holding a bouquet of red roses.

Nell: And carrying Gladys in my handbag, I expect.

Me: Actually Gladys and the others are watching from the kitchen. Just go and see.

Nell: It’s Charlie. My Charlie. You all knew.

Me: Of course we did and we are not sorry at all.


Happiness is a wet dog

Me: I was thinking about life and what makes me happy.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: I think train journeys do that to you.

Nell: Do what exactly?

Me: They encourage you to contemplate. When I got home yesterday and we went down to the sea I realised.

Nell: Realised what?

Me: That happiness is a wet dog. There is nothing better than seeing your loved ones enjoying life. Just look at Harriet’s face.

Nell: Very true. Talking of loved ones, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day so everyone is wearing red.

Me: I thought it wasn’t Malcolm’s colour.

Nell: Susan knitted him a red scarf. She and Harriet have joined the Welsh corgi knitting circle.

Me: They aren’t Welsh corgis.

Nell: It doesn’t matter. They embrace diversity. They asked me to join but there is a little too much singing for my liking.

Me: Have you heard from Charlie?

Nell: No. He’s gone off radar and I am choosing not to dwell on why.

Me: Oh dear. It will be some exciting secret mission.

Nell: Did The Cat just walk by in a red leotard followed by David in a sequinned cloak?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Carrying Gladys in my handbag?

Me: Yes.

Nell: On a bed of rose petals?

Me: Yes.

Nell: And four chihuahuas in heels?

Me: Yes.

Nell: With roses in their mouths?

Me: I’m afraid so. Sorry.


See you again soon

Nell: I thought you would like this photo.

Me: Yes, I do. A happy memory from my birthday.

Nell: Yes. We saw seals.

Me: We did.

Nell: I shall be accompanying Kev to the station to collect you.

Me: I am glad.

Nell: Malcolm has been invited to Susan’s for dinner, by the way. The Cat wants to make him a sequinned cloak.

Me: Don’t you think that might be a bit much?

Nell: Yes, I do. David has one, of course, and has offered to lend it to Malcolm but The Cat says red isn’t his colour.

Me: David can carry it off but Malcolm is not a sequinny kind of flamingo.

Nell: Count Bingo agrees. He was visiting Gladys and told The Cat it was out of the question.

Me: Good for him.

Nell: So Malcolm will wear his yellow sou’wester and cape.

Me: Wellington boots?

Nell: Of course. He can take his soft shoes with him.

Me: Yes. No boots in the house.

Nell: Exactly. Now, remember to get yourself a sandwich. They run out of them so quickly on the train and you don’t want a sugar low.

Me: No, I don’t.

Nell: Kev and I were thinking a hot chocolate by the sea might be just what you need when you get here.

Me: Yes, it just might.

Nell: Chin up. It’s see you again soon not goodbye.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: You and Jonathan really bonded this visit.

Nell: Yes. He is an admirable young chap and will make an excellent big brother.

Me: I think so too.

Nell: Now, I know I usually come to the station to wave you off but it isn’t possible this time. There is too much luggage.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: You are perfectly capable. Now, I need you to play the short, ageing woman card when you change trains at Reading as you will need help with the cases.

Me: Short, ageing woman? I’m only 60.

Nell: Stop grumbling. Just get someone to help and don’t start trying to lift the cases yourself.

Me: Okay.

Nell: Poppy has made sandwiches and cakes in case there is a problem with the buffet. Malcolm has popped in a few macarons and Susan collected some shells from the beach.

Me: That’s kind of her.

Nell: Kev has sourced a selection of reading material.

Me: Do you mean magazines?

Nell: Yes. I would suggest “Good Housekeeping”. Always worth a read. We have also recorded a “See you again soon” video for Jonathan and Alice to watch at their leisure featuring songs from David, stories from Mutley and a poem by Harriet.

Me: What a lovely idea.

Nell: You will be pleased to hear that Gladys was able to perform despite yesterday’s ketchup incident.

Me: That is a relief.

Nell: Do try and find a forward facing seat. You know how confused you get when things start moving away.

Me: Yes.

Nell: As I tell the puppies: Look forward and smile. There are so many exciting times ahead.

Me: True.

Nell: And remember when you look back, a beautiful memory will be waiting for you, because we have made more than enough for everyone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Lagging behind

Me: I was a bit slow on our walk today.

Nell: Don’t worry. Jonathan was waiting at the top and Alice and I were leading the way.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Mutley likes to take his time, too.

Me: Yes, he does.

Nell: It’s only their last day in Devon for now you know.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The next time you see them the baby will be there too.

Me: Yes.

Nell: You have all of today and tomorrow.

Me: I do.

Nell: And then you have memories until the next time.

Me: Yes, so many happy memories.

Nell: You are very lucky.

Me: I am.

Nell: Even if you lag behind now and again someone will always be waiting for you because that’s what families do.

Me: Yes, it is.

Nell: By the way David is never allowed ketchup again.

Me: Why?

Nell: We had to soak Gladys for over an hour to get it out.

Me: To be fair it sort of exploded out of the bottle and got in her hair and he didn’t want to waste it.

Nell: How many times do I have to say it? You do not use a Pomeranian to spread ketchup on your fish finger.

Me: You are right. Sorry.