Happy Mother’s Day

Nell: Happy Mother’s Day.

Me: Thank you. You look tired.

Nell: Yes. The clocks going forward always puts me a little out of sorts.

Me: How did it go with the visit to Madame Odile yesterday?

Nell: If I tell you David got into a baguette fight with a Beefy you might have an idea.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: I also found my handbag full of croissant crumbs when he and Gladys got home.

Me: I thought the waiting outside discreetly might not work.

Nell: You were right. Firstly, disguising yourself as a French onion seller with a false moustache and a beret is not the most subtle approach.

Me: No.

Nell: Then, playing the accordion while Gladys dances the can-can to rapturous applause isn’t exactly keeping a low profile.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: And finally, batting a passing Beefy away with a baguette and scoring a six to shouts of “Well done, Sir” is downright attention seeking.

Me: Good old Dave.

Nell: Fortunately Harriet and Sally were inside and missed it all. The French rooks thought it was hilarious, however, and have asked Pierre to come back again soon with little Fifi.

Me: Who are Pierre and Fifi?

Nell: David and Gladys’s stage names.

Me: Did the tea go well?

Nell: Yes, as far as I know, although they haven’t told me the details yet.

Me: Is Dave in trouble?

Nell: Harriet was annoyed but Sally just laughed, said, “Oh, Davey” and ruffled his fur, which he adored of course.

Me: He does love fur ruffling. He closes his eyes. In fact I might go and do that right now.

Nell: Don’t you dare. He is in detention. One boiled egg for breakfast and no bacon.

Me: Sorry.


Running free

Me: Sometimes you’ve simply got to throw caution to the wind and run down to the stream.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Casting aside the cares of the world you dip your paws in the cool water and embrace life.

Nell: Good grief. Harriet and I were simply chasing the ball.

Me: I know but it was so good to see you running free.

Nell: Yes. Life is a little tense at the moment.

Me: When are Harriet and Sally going to tea with Madame Odile?

Nell: This afternoon. David is to accompany them. He will wait outside during tea and escort them home.

Me: On his own?

Nell: Gladys has begged to go too but I’m not sure she is the right animal for the job.

Me: Can I ask what is going on, Nell? Only I feel rather confused.

Nell: This is highly confidential so please keep this to yourself. Charlie and Sally suspect the French bakery is a front for the dastardly N.O.I.R.

Me: Why are you spelling it? We know the bakery is called Oiseau Noir.

Nell: No. N.O.I.R. stands for the Notorious Organisation of International Rooks.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: They have French bakeries in London, Paris, New York and Rome and now they’ve come to Kingsbridge.

Me: I wonder why. It’s not really an obvious choice.

Nell: Exactly. Sally and Charlie mean to find out with the help of a double agent.

Me: How exciting. Who?

Nell: Harriet.

Me: Harriet?

Nell: Yes. She approached Madame Odile a while ago under the name of Mademoiselle Écarlate offering her services as an informer.

Me: The Cat made her costume.

Nell: Yes. The Cat has been working with Charlie for quite some time.

Me: Does Dave know?

Nell: He knows he must be vigilant and discreet.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Did David just walk past dressed as a French onion seller carrying Gladys in my handbag?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


A Cunning Plan

Me: Those French rooks are back.

Nell: Yes, they are waiting for an answer.

Me: Harriet seems a little on edge and Dave is keeping an extremely close eye on her.

Nell: Yes. Anyone would be. Let’s be honest, nobody would choose to take tea with a black swan.

Me: I don’t know any black swans so I couldn’t possibly say.

Nell: You do. Madame Odile from the French bakery.

Me: Oh. I didn’t know she was a black swan. I thought only Sally was invited to tea.

Nell: Yes, with Mademoiselle Écarlate her French assistant.

Me: She doesn’t have one.

Nell: She does now.

Me: It’s not Gladys is it? Only I know she’s mastered the can-can but I’m not sure it’s suitable for tea.

Nell: No, it’s not Gladys.

Me: It’s Poppy. She wants to case the joint.

Nell: No, it’s not Poppy and kindly stop talking like an American gangster.

Me: Then it has to be you, although it’s hard to imagine you as anyone’s assistant.

Nell: It is not me.

Me: Now, you are going to laugh, but I just saw Harriet walk past in a long black cloak and veil.

Nell: That was Mademoiselle Écarlate.

Me: No, it was definitely Harriet.

Nell: You wouldn’t recognise a cunning plan if it was a chocolate Labrador wearing a black cloak and veil carrying a big sign saying “I’m a Cunning Plan”.

Me: Oh, I see now. Sorry.


Dave is on guard

Me: If I didn’t know what a darling he really is, I would be a bit scared of Dave today.

Nell: He is on guard duty. Sally asked him to watch the front gate.

Me: For strange postmen?

Nell: What are you talking about? I know Tony is on holiday but the replacement Tonys are all very friendly.

Me: Well, who is he guarding us from then? Everyone is learning French and Gladys is wearing Poppy’s suit of armour.

Nell: Gladys is overreacting as usual. Never you mind.

Me: You have to tell me, Nell. Ever since Harriet came back with a baguette, things have been tense. You’ve been chatting to Sally and Charlie for hours. It’s just a stick of bread.

Nell: It is so much more.

Me: Yes. I must admit it was tasty. We all enjoyed it with Poppy’s mackerel pate. Especially Gladys.

Nell: I know. I found the crumbs in my handbag.

Me: Why is The Cat here with black material and no sequins?

Nell: Ah, there they are, as expected.

Me: Who?

Nell: Two French rooks with an invitation. Do keep up.

Me: For me?

Nell: Certainly not. For Sally.

Me: Look at Dave barring their way. He has taken the invitation. Where has Harriet gone?

Nell: Inside. She mustn’t be seen.

Me: I wonder who it’s from.

Nell: Madame Odile Cygne Noir.

Me: That’s a bit of a mouthful.

Nell: She owns the French bakery.

Me: Why is she inviting Sally? How does she even know Sally is here?

Nell: Harriet told her.

Me: Now I am really confused. Sorry.


Birds of a feather

Me: Wasn’t it beautiful down at the beach yesterday?

Nell: It was lovely. Just what we all needed in these troubled times.

Me: Is Poppy still worried about the new French bakery?

Nell: Yes. Apparently the Beefies are thinking of adding fish baguettes to their takeaway menu.

Me: Oh dear. I suppose birds of a feather stick together.

Nell: They are not of a feather, though, are they? The Beefies are Devon seagulls and the Oiseau Noir is run by French rooks.

Me: But they are all birds.

Nell: Just because I am a dog does not mean I will be dancing with chihuahuas, singing with Welsh corgis, or playing ping pong with the pugs.

Me: They are ever so good at it, though, aren’t they?

Nell: Yes. Give a pug a ping pong paddle and it’s happy.

Me: I think we should go there.

Nell: I’ve told you I’m not playing. I prefer real tennis.

Me: I mean to the Oiseau Noir.

Nell: So do I, but Charlie and Sally insist we keep our distance.

Me: Where is Harriet, by the way? I haven’t seen her today.

Nell: David said she went out first thing this morning. Apparently she had an errand to run. I’ll be glad when she is back.

Me: Don’t worry. I can see her now coming through the gate. She is carrying something long and thin.

Nell: Not a baguette?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Oiseau Noir

Nell: Don’t wake Poppy, please. She has been up half the night working on new recipes for the cafe.

Me: Why?

Nell: A new French bakery has opened in Kingsbridge called Oiseau Noir and it’s causing quite a stir.

Me: Really? Oiseau Noir means a black bird, doesn’t it?

Nell: Yes. Everyone is walking around with a baguette under their arm. We could be in France.

Me: Proper French bread is really delicious. We should get some.

Nell: The Cat was there yesterday buying croissants and said it’s a very odd place. It’s run by rooks and everyone wears black.

Me: Gloomy but stylish.

Nell: And they only speak French which is fine for me, of course, as I’m virtually bilingual but David will struggle.

Me: So will Harriet.

Nell: No. Harriet has been going to evening classes in French for quite a while. Sally’s idea.

Me: Where is Sally?

Nell: With Charlie. The strange thing is, when she heard the name of the bakery she turned pale, which is hard because she is a very fair furred Golden Retriever, and said she had to speak to Charlie.

Me: Gosh. Curiouser and curiouser.

Nell: Calm down, Alice. Let’s not leap down the rabbit hole until we know what is going on.

Me: You are right. Sorry.


Highly confidential

Nell: Can you spot the Labrador?

Me: Of course I can. It’s Harriet in the back garden.

Nell: Would you say Harriet is able to blend into the background?

Me: She’s not a wallflower, Nell.

Nell: No, but does she stand out?

Me: Why are we criticising Harriet?

Nell: We’re not. I am just trying to come to terms with something Sally and Charlie have told me.

Me: I don’t think it was Harriet who stole the welcome home shortbread fingers yesterday.

Nell: No. It was David helped by Gladys. He had shortbread behind his ears and said they were pencils.

Me: I know. Gladys tried to pretend hers was a cigar.

Nell: A ridiculous idea because everyone knows Pomeranians hate cigars.

Me: Those two always get caught.

Nell: Exactly. If Harriet had secretly wanted the shortbread, however, she would have taken it and we would have been none the wiser.

Me: She would have asked first.

Nell: That’s not the point. Now, I am going to tell you something highly confidential and you have to promise to keep it to to yourself for the time being.

Me: That’s not a promise I can make, Nell.

Nell: Apart from the writing. Nobody believes half the stuff you come up with.

Me: I think you will find they do.

Nell: Anyway, apparently Harriet has asked to be considered for MI5.

Me: What? Our little Harriet wants to be a spy? Our beautiful chocolate girl will be known as “Bond, Harriet Bond”.

Nell: Do stop. We’ve known for some time that there is way more to Harriet than meets the eye. Charlie says she is ideal for the job. Brave, intelligent and discreet.

Me: So that’s what she’s been doing with Sally?

Nell: Yes. She will be given a task and, if she is successful, her training will commence.

Me: What is the task?

Nell: I wouldn’t tell you if I knew. Discreet is not your middle name.

Me: Will she be putting her life in danger? Parachuting into enemy territory, or skiing dangerously fast down a mountain?

Nell: This is Devon in the Spring and we don’t have any mountains. Please try and be a little realistic.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


You won’t believe this

Nell: You won’t believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: I was talking to Harriet on my iBone this morning and she said David and Gladys actually joined the Mamma Mia cast on stage last night.

Me: Really?

Nell: Oh yes. Don’t ask me how. I’m fairly sure contemporary dance was involved and David definitely sang. They were both wearing sequinned flares and long wigs. Apparently they were a huge success.

Me: Good for them. What about The Cat?

Nell: It doesn’t do impromptu performances.

Me: Of course not. Silly me. What else have they been doing?

Nell: Shopping, obviously, and David has fallen in love with the Food Hall at Harold’s.

Me: Don’t you mean Harrods?

Nell: No. Who is he?

Me: What about Harriet?

Nell: She sounded very chipper. She managed to pop in on Harry and Meghan with a small gift from me. I know Meghan loves surprises and Harry has always had a soft spot for Harriet.

Me: That’s nice. Did Dave go too?

Nell: Not after the cake incident. I felt he wasn’t to be trusted.

Me: What happened?

Nell: Poppy made Meghan a nourishing cake only it never got to London as David ate it in the car. He said he thought it was for him.

Me: Oh dear. Poppy usually packs him a picnic. I’m sure it was an innocent mistake.

Nell: Gladys helped. Crumbs were found in my handbag. By the way, Sally has decided to come and stay for a few days. She has something she needs to discuss with Charlie.

Me: How is he?

Nell: We managed a short walk on the beach again. He is struggling a little with his breathing.

Me: Are you still coming with Kev to collect me from the hotel this afternoon?

Nell: Of course. I always bring you home. You know that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Happy Birthday Chris

Me: There is Chris with Mutley. They both hate looking at the camera.

Nell: Yes, they do. As it’s Chris’s Birthday today I thought we should have a photo of him.

Me: I wish he didn’t live so far away in Toronto but it is what it is.

Nell: Yes. We feel the same way. In fact I wrote a poem. Would you like to hear it?

Me: Yes.

Nell: “Happy Birthday to Chris

Who we very much miss.

Though you live far away

In our hearts you will stay.

Not a day goes by

Without Mutley and I,

Or Charlie, or Dave,

Or Poppy, or Maeve…”

Me: Who is Maeve?

Nell: It’s Gladys’s middle name. Stop interfering. I’m losing my flow.

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: “Or Harriet and Jim

We can’t forget him.

Or even The Cat

And Malcolm at that,

Saying ‘I’d give up my bone

If Chris would come home.'”

Me: Malcolm and The Cat don’t like bones.

Nell: It doesn’t matter. Just let me finish. Good grief.

Me: Ok.

Nell: “So let me just say

On this memorable day,

Have fun and enjoy

We love you dear Boy.”

Me: Beautifully said. Not sure he will like the Boy bit though.

Nell: He is my boy and I am his Nell. He knows that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Going to London

Nell: It’s complete chaos here.

Me: What on earth is Poppy doing?

Nell: Harriet has a sore throat so Poppy is giving her a quick examination to make sure she is safe to travel.

Me: Does she know what she’s looking for?

Nell: Of course she does. She is a trained First Aider.

Me: I thought that was for emergencies only.

Nell: Well, you thought wrong. Canine First Aiders are equipped for most eventualities.

Me: Impressive. Is Harriet ok?

Nell: She is fine. Too much singing. It’s “Dancing Queen” everywhere you go here. This Mama Mia hysteria has got way out of hand.

Me: Goodness. Although I’m glad Harriet is happier.

Nell: Yes. When The Cat started a conga she couldn’t refuse. What the neighbours think I do not know, although most of them joined in.

Me: Yes. The farm dogs love a good conga.

Nell: So do the Scottish Terriers from the holiday cottages. There was no stopping them.

Me: When do they all leave for London?

Nell: After breakfast. Poppy is cooking a full English. She is going to pack extra sausages for the journey as David gets peckish.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: I don’t believe it.

Me: What’s happened?

Nell: Everyone is wearing sequinned dungarees. Even Mutley and he isn’t going to London.

Me: I bet you wish you were going too.

Nell: I most certainly do not. Waving my paws in the air to “Gimme Gimme Gimme” is not something I enjoy.

Me: How about “Voulez Vous”?

Nell: Enough.

Me: Sorry.