Me: The puppies look worried.

Nell: They are feeling a little tired.

Me: It was quite a party.

Nell: Yes, and the responsibility of being two is weighing heavily on David in particular.

Me: Why?

Nell: Well, he’s lost his job for a start.

Me: True. We don’t need a Roofing Liaison Officer without any roofers.

Nell: And Mick Jaguar said Mutley was a cool cat and asked if he would like to come on tour.

Me: Mutley isn’t a cat. He’s a Patterdale terrier.

Nell: That’s not the point. Anyway, to rub salt into the hound Harriet is going back to London with Sally.

Me: Don’t you mean wound not hound?

Nell: No. Everyone knows hounds hate salt. Do keep up.

Me: Oh. Why is Harriet going to London?

Nell: It’s confidential. She’s only going for the day but she doesn’t want to leave David.

Me: Personally, I think Dave would make an excellent spy.

Nell: Charlie agrees but Sally is conflicted.

Me: Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised who M is.

Nell: Finally.

Me: It’s so obvious when you think about it.

Nell: Yes. I am surprised it has taken you this long.

Me: It’s Mutley, isn’t it? M is for Mutley.

Nell: Good grief. No. It’s not Mutley.

Me: It can’t be Harriet?

Nell: No.

Me: Then it’s Sally. M must be Sally.

Nell: Of course M is Sally. It’s always been Sally.

Me: She said she was Charlie’s assistant.

Nell: That’s what we were supposed to believe.

Me: But she deceived me. I bet she doesn’t really wear glasses. Maybe she isn’t even a Golden Retriever.

Nell: Sally is a natural blonde and wears glasses to read. Just like we do. Deceiving you is a piece of steak, by the way.

Me: Don’t you mean cake?

Nell: No.

Me: Sorry.


Happy Birthday Dave and Harriet

Me: Happy Birthday Dave and Harriet. Nice hats.

Nell: Yes. The Cat wants hats to be worn all day. Yours is inside. Turning two is an important milestone in the puppies’ lives and should be celebrated.

Me: So what’s the plan?

Nell: Well, they had Morning Thoughts with Mutley first thing and then bacon sandwiches with the roofers. They are cleaning up as the roof is finally finished.

Me: Thank goodness.

Nell: There will be present opening soon followed by a walk and an early lunch with the family. Poppy is preparing poached salmon and new potatoes.

Me: Has Sally arrived?

Nell: We are expecting her any minute. She is going to surprise David as he thinks she is still in London.

Me: Is she going to leap out of a cake?

Nell: Sally is a Golden Retriever. She isn’t going to leap out of anything. Good grief. I mean imagine the size of carrot cake Malcolm would have to make and the mess.

Me: I didn’t mean a real cake.

Nell: Sally is going to ring the doorbell. She has class.

Me: It was just an idea.

Nell: Guests will start arriving at 3pm so I have suggested a nap after lunch. David was awake at 5am singing ‘I’m a lovely Birthday boy’. Harriet was not amused.

Me: He can’t help getting excited.

Nell: He and Gladys didn’t need to start tap dancing though.

Me: No wonder Harriet looks tired.

Nell: I don’t believe it. The Whippets Institute have arrived early and are heading for the bouncy castle.

Me: At least they are all wearing hats and they’ve taken off their shoes. Some of the Welsh corgis forgot.

Nell: You mean they are in there too?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Making memories

Nell: I thoroughly enjoyed our walk with Chris and Shannon yesterday. Being by the sea is good for the soul.

Me: Yes. We made some wonderful memories didn’t we?

Nell: We did. Charlotte enjoyed her birthday, too.

Me: Yes, it was lovely to see both my sisters.

Nell: Talking of birthdays, plans are well under way for the puppies’ surprise party tomorrow.

Me: I can’t believe they are going to be 2.

Nell: Quite frankly nobody believes David hasn’t been two for years. Look at the size of him.

Me: It’s not his fault that he is such a lovely big boy and Harriet is so delicate.

Nell: Poppy and Malcolm are preparing their favourite food. Sausages, lots of scones and a selection of sandwiches.

Me: Crusts off?

Nell: Of course, but no salad. Malcolm is making a carrot cake. The Cat is doing the icing. It has dexterous claws.

Me: Good.

Nell: Gladys is in charge of entertainment. I saw Myfanwy carrying a Pom Pom so I am expecting some cheerleading from the Welsh corgis.

Me: Nothing too strenuous I hope.

Nell: No. There will be more waving than jumping. John the Doberman is bringing his band.

Me: I didn’t know he had one.

Nell: Yes. The Rolling Bones. They are all rather elderly now but David is a huge fan of the vocalist Mick Jaguar.

Me: Don’t you mean Jagger?

Nell: Not unless he’s a wild cat, too.

Me: Will Gladys be dancing?

Nell: Of course. Everyone will. Even the quietly spoken Spaniel from the Post Office said she was bringing her dancing shoes.

Me: I hope Gladys doesn’t wear stilettos. It never ends well.

Nell: As long as she doesn’t wear them on the bouncy castle we should be fine.

Me: Bouncy castle?

Nell: Yes, of course. You can’t turn two without bouncing. The mere idea.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Happy Birthday and See You Again Soon

Nell: I’m afraid David has been squashing people again. He knows it’s wrong.

Me: Oh dear. Look at his guilty face.

Nell: He insisted on climbing onto Shannon’s lap.

Me: He thinks he’s a lapdog.

Nell: He is 45 kilos and he simply doesn’t think things through.

Me: But it’s meant well.

Nell: David and I have discussed Meaning Well several times. It is not an excuse for squashing visitors.

Me: No.

Nell: Now, today is a day of light and shade for you isn’t it?

Me: Yes.

Nell: It is your sister Charlotte’s birthday and we are all having lunch at the Cottage Hotel with your little sister Alex.

Me: I’m looking forward to it.

Nell: So, am I. The views of the coast are simply wonderful and we shall all be together.

Me: Yes. But not for long.

Nell: No, because later you are driving Chris and Shannon to the station.

Me: I know.

Nell: They have to fly back to Toronto.

Me: I’m not looking forward to that.

Nell: No. But if you want people to come back then they have to leave.

Me: Yes. I suppose they do.

Nell: So, try and think of it as a see you again soon and not a farewell.

Me: I’ll try.

Nell: In the meantime Gladys has planned some extraordinary entertainment involving a trapeze.

Me: Oh my goodness.

Nell: The roofers have nearly finished so she wants to make good use of the scaffolding.

Me: Where is Harriet?

Nell: Meditating. She started doing it with Chris and Shannon. Did David just walk past carrying my handbag?

Me: Yes. Gladys seems to be wearing feathers.

Nell: Did he seem awfully tall to you?

Me: Yes.

Nell: He wasn’t on stilts though, was he?

Me: Yes. I’m afraid he was. Sorry.


No photos please, it’s Sunday

Me: Why are you looking at me like that?

Nell: It’s Sunday morning.

Me: I know.

Nell: People are trying to sleep.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Nobody wants their photo taken.

Me: I’ve been away, Nell. So I was trying to catch up with you all.

Nell: You were intrusive. You are behaving like the puparazzi.

Me: You mean the paparazzi.

Nell: I most certainly do not. Those young pups with their cameras have no respect. Strangely enough they are usually Italian and mostly Volpinos.

Me: I’m not Italian and I don’t even know what a Volpino is.

Nell: Think Gladys. Lots of fur and even more attitude.

Me: I’ve never seen one.

Nell: Of course you haven’t. They creep up on you unawares just like you this morning. Suddenly you are front page news with your hair in curlers wearing your oldest collar.

Me: I only wanted a few photos.

Nell: By the way, David wants to be a footballer again.

Me: Why?

Nell: He was watching the Women’s World Cup with Shannon and Chris last night and is all fired up.

Me: He did join the team in Russia last year.

Nell: I know. I’ve promised to call Gareth but it’s a passing phase. When Wimbledon starts he’ll be out there with his tennis racquet again.

Me: I used to play tennis.

Nell: If you are going to start talking about your school team again then I am going to have to stop you right there.

Me: Why?

Nell: It’s over 40 years ago. Let it go.

Me: We nearly had to play Sue Barker. She went to a school nearby but the match was cancelled.

Nell: It wouldn’t have ended well. Now, may I suggest a quiet breakfast? People are still having a lie-in. And no more photos.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


After the party

Me: What a welcome home.

Nell: Yes. It was a good party. Poppy and David are still sleeping. Malcolm is doing breakfast this morning so she can have a lie in. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Poppy’s favourite.

Me: Good. I can’t believe I forgot her birthday yesterday.

Nell: Fortunately we didn’t. The Cat excelled itself on the decorations.

Me: John the Doberman is an elegant dancer. He and Poppy certainly know how to tango.

Nell: Yes. Amazingly light footed for a large animal. Mind you, Mutley’s Pasa Doble is hard to beat. Although I still think Gladys shouldn’t have been the bullfighter.

Me: Even Charlie got on the dance floor for a gentle waltz.

Nell: Yes. He says he feels stronger. We are taking each day as it comes.

Me: Chris and Shannon should be arriving in Totnes about 5pm.

Nell: I’m not sure David will cope with all this excitement. He was actually lost for words when you walked through the door.

Me: He is such a dear good boy.

Nell: He was too emotional to sing the welcome home song he wrote you.

Me: Yes. I have never been licked so much in my life. Harriet was the same. They both climbed on to my lap.

Nell: You were missed. By us all.

Me: I noticed you did a little dance when you saw me at the station.

Nell: Yes. My emotions ran away with me.

Me: It was lovely to cuddle you again. Especially as you aren’t always very cuddly.

Nell: Exceptions can be made in times of great joy.

Me: So I am a great joy?

Nell: You know you are. Stop fishing. We have to get the house ready for Chris and Shannon and Poppy will need her breakfast tray.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Going home

Me: What are the puppies doing?

Nell: Waiting for you, of course.

Me: I haven’t even left Berlin yet, Nell.

Nell: I know but they insisted. They have no concept of time and they love the excitement. So how was the evacuation?

Me: Extremely long. There was a problem with the second bomb so we didn’t get the all clear until after 7pm.

Nell: Well, we had a few problems here too, starting with David and Gladys.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: They were not quiet. They ate most of the pancakes and used up all of Chris’s maple syrup. Not all of it on the pancakes I might add.

Me: I expect it was by mistake.

Nell: Nonsense. Then Poppy got stuck in my handbag and lost some fur getting out of it.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: And Malcolm had to be airlifted from the roof.

Me: By helicopter?

Nell: No, by Count Bingo.

Me: Poor Malcolm. What happened?

Nell: He simply couldn’t move. Count Bingo was awfully kind and gave him a few prawns on the way down.

Me: What about Mutley and The Cat?

Nell: Surfing is not for them. They took one look at the waves and decided a massage at the hotel spa was a much better idea.

Me: I’m on their side. And did you do any barking?

Nell: I tried a couple of barks but my heart wasn’t in it so I had a cup of tea and a scone with Charlie instead.

Me: I quite understand.

Nell: Now you will be feeling low at having to say goodbye to Alice and the children but they will be visiting us in a few months.

Me: Yes. Are you coming to the station with Kev?

Nell: Of course I am. Especially when you’ve had some difficult goodbyes. You and me. Always. Remember?

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: Why is Harriet hiding on the stairs?

Nell: She’s been evacuated from her comfortable sofa downstairs.

Me: But you don’t have any bombs.

Nell: I know, but we are playing Evacuation. If you have to go through it then so do we.

Me: So where are the others?

Nell: David is in the kitchen with Gladys preparing breakfast. They are making pancakes quietly and they are not eating any of them.

Me: Oh dear. Where is Poppy?

Nell: In your handbag. It’s a tight fit.

Me: It would be. Gladys is much smaller.

Nell: Malcolm is up on the roof.

Me: I don’t think that’s very safe even though he is a flamingo.

Nell: Yes, and he is scared of heights.

Me: What about Mutley and The Cat?

Nell: They have gone surfing. The Cat has made them both sequinned bathing costumes.

Me: But The Cat hates water and Mutley is about 112 in human years.

Nell: They are actually quite excited.

Me: What about you?

Nell: I’m at the top of the back garden barking at the farm dogs.

Me: Don’t do that, Nell. You always tell the puppies off for barking.

Nell: I know but I’m not myself today, am I? Anyway, where are you?

Me: I’m about to leave for Andre’s parents’ house. There are police everywhere.

Nell: I suppose there would be.

Me: Thousands of people are being evacuated including the hospital and the area is being cordoned off.

Nell: Have you packed your case?

Me: No, they think the bombs should be disarmed by the afternoon.

Nell: I mean for tomorrow. You’re flying home.

Me: Yes, I’ll do it when I get back. I have to leave now, Nell. I’ll let you know when I am safe.

Nell: Make sure you do.

Me: Yes. I have to go now. Sorry.


Thunderstorms and Bombs

Me: We had an awful thunderstorm here in Berlin last night. I hardly slept.

Nell: Yes. Here too. In fact, David is thinking of resigning as Roofing Liaison Officer. I’m trying to persuade him to continue.

Me: Why is he resigning?

Nell: It won’t stop raining and he doesn’t like thunderstorms.

Me: Nobody does.

Nell: David says he can’t liaise when his men are at risk. You can’t roof in a storm.

Me: He has a point. Talking of risk , we are being evacuated tomorrow at 8am.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: They found a World War II bomb nearby and are going to disarm it.

Nell: What? You can’t just sit there waiting for it to explode. Go now.

Me: It happens a lot around Berlin. There is nothing to worry about. We are right on the edge of the area anyway.

Nell: David is not going to be happy about this. He has enough on his plate already.

Me: Dave never has enough on his plate.

Nell: This is not a laughing matter. Where are you going to go?

Me: To Alice’s in-laws. They live a few miles away. They are collecting us all tomorrow morning and taking us to safety.

Nell: You mean Jonathan Sky and Faye Raine are in danger too?

Me: We are not in danger. We are being evacuated until the bomb is disarmed. Well, strictly speaking both bombs are disarmed, as I’ve just heard there are two of them.

Nell: Two bombs? It gets worse.

Me: Don’t worry. I’m sure the bomb disposal team are excellent. They’ve had a lot of practice.

Nell: Thunderstorms and bombs are not the way to start a Wednesday. I will need a cup of Earl Grey and a lie down before I pass this news on to everyone.

Me: Yes. Sorry.



Me: It’s good to see Charlie.

Nell: And you and Faye.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Charlie has been doing a lot of outside thinking recently.

Me: Do you know why?

Nell: He says fresh air helps to blow away dark thoughts.

Me: It does.

Nell: He is slowing down a lot now.

Me: I know.

Nell: It’s like a light going out. He just fades a little more every day.

Me: I wish I could help, Nell, but there is nothing we can do.

Nell: Family is such a support. Seeing photos of you and the children and knowing they will be visiting us soon is a great comfort.

Me: I’m glad.

Nell: David sings to Charlie, most evenings now.

Me: Oh dear. Nothing too loud I hope.

Nell: No, ballads he’s written himself. Gladys performs the occasional contemporary dance but nothing too flamboyant and it makes Charlie smile.

Me: That’s a relief.

Nell: Harriet reads to us in her quiet way. Articles from the newspaper she thinks he would like.

Me: Bless her.

Nell: The Cat usually joins us for Poppy’s homemade biscuits and Malcolm’s macarons.

Me: And Mutley?

Nell: Mutley tells us tales of times gone by. He often falls asleep half way through but nobody minds.

Me: What about you?

Nell: I just enjoy the togetherness of it all and the feeling of Charlie beside me.

Me: He will always be beside you, Nell.

Nell: Yes. I believe he will. Are you thinking of your dear mother?

Me: Yes. We lost her two years ago today.

Nell: I know. But as I told you before, she is watching over you. Love lives on in us all, and now we are celebrating life with the birth of little Faye.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Nell: No need for sorry. Not today.