Thinking of Tony

Me: Our hearts are going out to dear Tony the Postman.

Nell: Yes. His beloved Labrador Milo was taken ill suddenly yesterday evening and Tony and family had to make the heartbreaking decision to let him go.

Me: We all know how it feels to lose a loved one but when it is sudden like this it is so very hard to accept.

Nell: Yes. David wants him to know that he is here waiting to give him as many cuddles as he can take and more.

Me: I expect you all are.

Nell: Yes, I myself shall be waiting at the gate with everyone to show our love. Tony is family.

Me: It’s so sad, Nell.

Nell: Yes, it is. But remember what I told you.

Me: Yes.

Nell: When we leave you we never really do. We become your Guardians. It is a great honour for us all.

Me: Yes.

Nell: So, as you go on with your lives, as you must, please know that we are watching over you.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Love like this doesn’t go away. Ever. It is far too strong.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Milo is watching over Tony right now. Sometimes the hardest decision is letting us go but Tony made it because he loves Milo.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And Milo knows and loves Tony for it. Always. I know you would do the same for me.

Me: Of course. It’s just that we love you so much.

Nell: We know.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Nell: No need for sorry. Not today.


Dave makes another mistake

Me: What’s the matter with Dave?

Nell: The Cat says David has grown again and he won’t fit into his sequinned waistcoat.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: And Poppy has taken him off deliveries because he ate the last batch of scones by mistake.

Me: I didn’t know Poppy did deliveries.

Nell: It’s her latest idea. On warm days it’s lovely to enjoy a scone on the beach.

Me: Yes, it is. One in the eye for the Beefies too.

Nell: There is no need for violence.

Me: It’s just a phrase.

Nell: So the idea was that David has a bicycle and trailer with a cool box for the jam and cream. He parks at the beach and distributes scones.

Me: But it didn’t work?

Nell: No. He said business was slow so he thought eating a few would encourage people. Unfortunately it didn’t stop at a few.

Me: No wonder his waistcoat doesn’t fit.

Nell: Gladys wanted to take it on but her paws don’t reach the peddles.

Me: And the hills would be too much.

Nell: Exactly. Anyway, Malcolm suggested Count Bingo might help. He is an exceptionally tall and strong flamingo.

Me: Can flamingos ride bicycles?

Nell: Of course. Malcolm cycles into Kingsbridge most days to meet Susan. Why do you think he leaves wearing a helmet?

Me: I thought it was a fashion statement.

Nell: I despair of you sometimes. I really do. Gladys will ride with Count Bingo and on slow days they can perform a contemporary dance.

Me: That should drum up interest.

Nell: There will be no need for percussion.

Me: I’m not surprised Dave is feeling a little put out. Poor darling boy. No waistcoat, no scones, no dancing.

Nell: Do stop. He’s just had bacon sandwiches with the roofers and The Cat is making him a new waistcoat.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Welcome to our world little one

Me: Baby Snail is here and they are both tired but safe and well.

Nell: A great relief. I’m not sure it was necessary for David to sing it from the rooftops.

Me: He was pleased.

Nell: We know.

Me: It was nice of the roofers to join in, though.

Nell: Yes. And most unexpected. Some of those harmonies were impressive.

Me: Can you believe Baby Snail arrived exactly on her due date?

Nell: Of course. We are a family of strong punctual women.

Me: I’m not sure about the punctual bit.

Nell: Do you like to be on time?

Me: Yes, although I prefer being early to be honest.

Nell: Stop quibbling. Now, I’ve written a poem for Baby Snail. Would you like to hear it?

Me: Yes, please.

Nell: ‘Welcome to our world, little one.

The fun for you has just begun.

So many stories we can tell

Of life in Devon with Auntie Nell.’

Me: But you aren’t her aunt.

Nell: Stop interrupting. I can be anything I like.

Me: Yes. I suppose you can.

Nell: Where was I? Oh yes.

‘Building sandcastles, riding a wave,

Singing and dancing with Gladys and Dave.

Scones with Poppy, first jam then cream,

Books with Harriet, daring to dream.

By the fire with Mutley, just having a chat,

Sequins and sparkles and fun with The Cat.

Giggles with Grandpa and Jonathan Sky,

Mummy and Papa are always nearby.

‘Tell me a story, Granny’, you’ll say,

‘What did you and Nell do today?’

And as you listen you’ll know that it’s true,

You’re made of love and we all love you.’

Me: She will know that, won’t she?

Nell: Of course she will. Always.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Bites of the Round Bowl

Me: What’s going on?

Nell: It’s obvious.

Me: Not to me.

Nell: It’s a grey Tuesday so we are playing Bites of the Round Bowl.

Me: Bites of the Round Bowl?

Nell: Yes. David is Sir Lancelot and I am bold Lady Nell.

Me: Why has he got his paw on your head?

Nell: He is blessing me with the royal meal of approval while Princess Harriet looks on.

Me: Don’t you mean seal of approval?

Nell: Certainly not. Biscuits are involved.

Me: What about Poppy?

Nell: Poppy is St. George, obviously, armourless at the moment but on standby with Malcolm as a shy knight.

Me: I never knew there was such a thing as a shy knight. Is Mutley involved?

Nell: He is Merlin and The Cat is Robin Hood in tights and a feathered cap.

Me: I think you’re getting your stories confused. You’ll be telling me Gladys is Maid Marian next.

Nell: Gladys is the Sheriff of Nottingham. She’s terrifyingly good at being bad. You wouldn’t recognise her in a beard.

Me: Is Kev playing?

Nell: Of course. He’s King Arthur.

Me: What about me? Am I the Queen?

Nell: Don’t be silly. The mere idea.

Me: Oh, I just hoped I might be included.

Nell: Of course you’re the Queen. If Kev is Arthur there can only be one Guinevere. Now go and get your tall hat and veil, Gladys is about to perform a contemporary dance.

Me: Yes. Thank you. Sorry.


They’re back

Me: It’s so wonderful to have everyone back again. Poppy just keeps smiling.

Nell: She hasn’t stopped baking since she came home. I know it’s still early but would you care for a scone? Fresh out of the oven.

Me: It would be rude not to.

Nell: When Sven Gully released them, Poppy dropped her Big Mutt Meal in shock. She’s not a takeaway girl.

Me: No.

Nell: Fortunately David was there to clear it up.

Me: He’s such a good boy.

Nell: Harriet has been apologising to everyone for her rude behaviour. She is mortified. She says she never wants to see another bottle of Aquavit, or a pickled fish again.

Me: I don’t blame her.

Nell: She’s on the sofa now with a cup of tea and a good book.

Me: What about The Cat?

Nell: It actually screamed when it saw the socks and sandals. Gladys was ready, however, with a sequinned cloak and David carried it home in my handbag.

Me: Has it recovered?

Nell: It’s in the kitchen wearing a sparkling jacket with diamond accessories, eating smoked salmon, drinking champagne and discussing wedding dresses with Susan, so I think it’s almost back to normal.

Me: It’s been an eventful few days, hasn’t it?

Nell: Yes, and there are many more to come. Any sign of Baby Snail yet?

Me: No. But the due date is tomorrow so she will definitely be here soon. Thank goodness as Alice is very tired.

Nell: Of course she is but Jonathan Sky and his Papa will be looking after her and you will be flying over there soon.

Me: Yes, I can’t wait.

Nell: And did I hear that Chris is arriving from Toronto a week today?

Me: You did. I am bursting with excitement.

Nell: That is not a pretty picture. Can’t you just be filled with excitement like everyone else?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Call me Wallander

Me: Dave is awfully quiet.

Nell: He’s still in character. He did so well yesterday that we are letting him continue until Harriet gets back.

Me: But he’s being a bit aloof.

Nell: It’s the Scandinavian detective thing. He wants to be called Wallander.

Me: So, tell me again how it went.

Nell: Mutley was amazing. Sven chatted away to him in Swedish but as he is deaf and was wearing thick glasses it had no effect whatsoever.

Me: How about the pickled fish?

Nell: David served it in a haughty, distant manner and tossed a herring down his throat like a true professional.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: The fun began when Mutley showed Sven his watch.

Me: Well, that was a waste of time. See what I did there? I thought Mutley was supposed to be hypnotising him.

Nell: He used the watch. Do keep up.

Me: Clever.

Nell: We had a tense moment when Gladys accidentally went into a trance but fortunately David saw it happen and intervened.

Me: Did it work on Sven too?

Nell: Yes. He is going to release everyone this afternoon at the quay.

Me: How are we going to do make sure they all go?

Nell: Personal invitations. Harriet threw hers in the sea but Jim the Farm Dog says she will be there, even if he has to carry her.

Me: What about Poppy?

Nell: She and Ron Gilbert are coming. They are picking up a takeaway from MuttDonalds.

Me: And The Cat?

Nell: It’s rather taken with David’s gloomy Scandi look so it’s agreed as long as it can wear grey and keep in the background.

Me: Fingers crossed that we have them back by the end of the day.

Nell: It’s paws pressed. You know that. And we will.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Don’t be yourself

Me: You haven’t gone strange again, have you? Only yesterday was scary.

Nell: Certainly not. Keep your head low and don’t look out of the window.

Me: Why?

Nell: After Sven Gully’s performance in Kingsbridge yesterday half the town has lost its mind.

Me: How?

Nell: Locals have forgotten how to reverse in the country lanes so tourists are having to do it.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: The surfers are playing Scrabble in dark rooms and the farmers are having lie-ins.

Me: Who is driving the tractors?

Nell: Nobody. The Beefies are having a field day stealing crops and bothering the sheep.

Me: This has to stop.

Nell: Don’t worry. We have a plan. Now, we all need to speak basic Swedish by tea time.

Me: Why?

Nell: Stephen Seagull is coming to tea. Susan has asked him over to talk about the wedding.

Me: I don’t think this is the time to be planning a wedding, Nell.

Nell: It was just an excuse. He is bringing Sven Gully.

Me: Are you insane?

Nell: Mutley is going to hypnotise him. The only way to get everyone back is if Sven releases them.

Me: What if it doesn’t work?

Nell: Mutley can do it. We just have to avoid looking at Sven, talk in Swedish and behave very unlike ourselves.

Me: I’m not sure I can be sporty and bold.

Nell: You are best keeping out of the way. Malcolm is staying in the kitchen but knows he must be rude and obnoxious if challenged.

Me: What about Dave and Gladys?

Nell: They will be shy and retiring with not even a hint of a contemporary dance.

Me: That might be a problem.

Nell: Did David just walk past carrying Gladys in my handbag singing ‘Waterloo’?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Please tell me they weren’t wearing their ABBA costumes?

Me: And long wigs and platform boots. Sorry.


The Great Mutliano

Me: Can I ask you a question, Nell? Only you are looking a bit strange.

Nell: Ask me anything you like, my dear.

Me: If you were talking Swedish right now I would be worried.

Nell: I would hate you to be worried, my sweet.

Me: No, seriously Nell, stop being so odd. Your eyes are far away and you’re being nice to me.

Nell: Everyone should be nice to you.

Me: This is dreadful. I’m getting Charlie.

Nell: He is with The Great Mutliano. I wouldn’t bother him if I were you. Sally is visiting and they have lots to discuss.

Me: The Great Mutliano? Who is he? You aren’t making sense.

Nell: You are right. Of course. You always are. Silly me. Sorry.

Me: No, I’m not. Stop being so nice. And you never say sorry.

Nell: Well, I am sorry now. The Great Mutliano told me to be kinder to you.

Me: Look, Mutley is here now. Why is he clicking his paws and murmuring?

Nell: I would love to chat but I’m feeling a little tired. So sorry.

Me: What is going on, Nell? Wake up!

Nell: Stop shouting. Good grief. I’m right next to you. Honestly, I despair of you sometimes.

Me: You’re back. You were hypnotised.

Nell: I was not. I haven’t been anywhere near Sven Gully and I’ve been wearing a hat outside.

Me: No. It was Mutley. You called him The Great Mutliano.

Nell: Did I? Mutley was a hypnotist back in the day, of course, but he hasn’t practised in years. I was talking to him about it just now when I fell asleep.

Me: Well, he’s still got the gift. You were actually nice to me. You even said you were sorry. Several times. It was terrifying.

Nell: What exactly do you mean by that?

Me: Nothing. Sorry.


Shop bought scones?

Me: Looking good.

Nell: The trick is to keep your eyes closed and wear a brimmed hat. David and I are taking no chances.

Me: Too much sun?

Nell: No. We are avoiding Sven Gully. Have you spoken to Poppy recently?

Me: No.

Nell: Don’t bother unless you speak Swedish.

Me: Not Poppy too?

Nell: Oh yes. She went over to the Big House to sort things out and never came home.

Me: Kidnapped?

Nell: No. Last seen lounging in a deckchair in Torquay eating shop bought scones with Ron Gilbert the Great Dane.

Me: Shop bought scones? In Torquay? With Ron Gilbert?

Nell: Do stop repeating everything I say.

Me: But it’s so unlike her.

Nell: I just contacted Poppy on WoofsApp asking her politely about dinner tonight and received this reply. Look.

Me: ‘Laga det själv‘? I don’t know what that means.

Nell: Apparently it means ‘Cook it yourself’. The Cat might have lost its fashion sense but fortunately it speaks Swedish at the moment so it translated it for me.

Me: But Poppy doesn’t let anyone else cook, except Malcolm, and she always organises dinner.

Nell: Malcolm is confined to the kitchen for the time being and is wearing dark glasses and a sombrero. We cannot risk him falling under Sven’s spell too.

Me: Do you think he’s a magician then?

Nell: No. He’s a hypnotist. Mutley and I looked him up on Poodle. He’s performing in Kingsbridge tomorrow down at the quay.

Me: Is he really Swedish?

Nell: Yes, and there’s more.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: He is Stephen Seagull’s Swedish cousin.

Me: Stephen Seagull, the head of the evil Beefies and the biological father of Malcolm’s sweetheart Susan? That Stephen Seagull?

Nell: Of course, how many of them do you think there are? Do keep up. And put a hat on.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Keep your eye on the sky

Me: What are you doing?

Nell: I am watching out for Beefies. If you see any large seagulls with beards look away.

Me: Why? What’s happened?

Nell: The Cat asked for a bacon sandwich.

Me: The Cat hates bacon. It only ever eats dainty sandwiches. Preferably smoked salmon with the crusts off.

Nell: Exactly. When I suggested salmon it looked at me in disgust and said ‘Nej tack’.

Me: What does that mean?

Nell: ‘No, thank you’ in Swedish.

Me: The Cat is speaking Swedish?

Nell: Yes. It has something to do with that awful Sven Gully. I know it has.

Me: But how?

Nell: I don’t know yet, but it is getting worse.

Me: What else has happened?

Nell: The Cat wants all sequins removed from our hard hats and safety vests.

Me: No.

Nell: It says they are too shiny.

Me: Nothing is too shiny for The Cat.

Nell: That’s what I thought.

Me: But The Cat loves colour and pizzazz.

Nell: Not anymore. Gladys is in tears and David has hidden his sequinned jacket under his pillow. Poppy is taking the chandelier down as we speak.

Me: What about Harriet?

Nell: She’s down at the quay drinking Aquavit with the Beefies and throwing prawns at visitors.

Me: No. Harriet would never do such a thing.

Nell: When David asked her to stop she just said ‘ din cykel, stor pojke‘.

Me: That sounds awfully rude.

Nell: It’s ‘On your bike, big boy’.

Me: Was he on a bike?

Nell: No. That’s not the point. Did The Cat just walk past eating a hot dog?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Please tell me it wasn’t wearing beige shorts?

Me: I’m afraid so, and socks and sandals. Sorry.