Wednesday ear rubs

Me: Where is Dave?

Nell: Having ear rubs with Kev.

Me: There is nothing wrong with his ears. You’re the one with the ear infection.

Nell: I know. The silly animal watches my ears being rubbed and then asks for his to be done.

Me: It’s actually rather sweet.

Nell: He adores it.

Me: Any news from Nigel?

Nell: He’s missing home but bravely persevering. He’s managed to get the name of the nasty recruiter.

Me: What is it?

Nell: Hunter.

Me: Do we know what kind of dog he is?

Nell: No. We don’t even know if he is a dog.

Me: Hunter sounds like a wolf.

Nell: A little unlikely, but possible. He might well be a cat.

Me: True.

Nell: After all Mutley’s arch enemy, Compton Pauncefoot, is a cat.

Me: Maybe he’s part of The Black Claw.

Nell: I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Walter Pigeon came to see me this morning.

Me: Why?

Nell: He heard about our difficulties and wondered if we would like him to go undercover.

Me: How did he hear?

Nell: Eavesdropping, of course. He’s fully prepared to wear a black toupee and a newsboy cap.

Me: Why on earth would he do that?

Nell: He wants to join the Beaky Blinders. Do keep up.

Me: Oh. I see. Rather him than Malcolm.

Nell: Malcolm?

Me: Yes. I saw a few of them talking to Malcolm earlier when he was hanging out the washing.

Nell: We can’t have that.

Me: It has to dry, Nell.

Nell: No. Not the washing. I meant talking to the Beaky Blinders.

Me: I wouldn’t worry. I don’t think Malcolm wants to join.

Nell: Of course he doesn’t want to join. They were probably threatening him.

Me: Oh. I didn’t realise. Sorry.


Happy Anniversary

Nell: Happy Anniversary.

Me: Thank you.

Nell: Ten years.

Me: I know.

Nell: Poppy says it’s tin.

Me: Yes, that’s not very exciting, is it?

Nell: No. It’s very Cornish though.

Me: Yes, Kev was born in Cornwall.

Nell: I’ve written you a poem. Would you like to hear it?

Me: Yes, please.

Nell: ‘It’s July 30th, let’s all bark hurrah,

Kev and Sara were married ten years ago today.

Two soulmates united. It was meant to be.

Proving love can be found even when you’re 50.’

Me: Thank you for that reminder.

Nell: Quiet. I haven’t finished yet.

‘The past ten years have seen lows and highs,

Two wonderful grandchildren, some painful goodbyes.

A move down to Devon to live by the sea,

With David and Harriet, Poppy, Mutley

And me.

Since we arrived our family has grown

With animals, birds and friends yet unknown.

But there is something we all really want you to know

We’re so glad you said ‘Yes’ all those ten years ago.’

Me: That’s lovely, Nell. Especially as I know you are struggling with your ears.

Nell: I am a little fragile today, that’s true.

Me: Well, that’s most odd.

Nell: What is?

Me: There’s a pigeon outside in a black toupee.

Nell: It’s probably Walter Pigeon. He’s copying Romeo.

Me: No. It’s not him. It’s wearing a tweed cap.

Nell: A newsboy cap?

Me: Yes, a bit silly in this weather.

Nell: This could be serious. Let’s hope it doesn’t have a Birmingham accent.

Me: That’s not very nice, Nell. We need to appreciate the tourists.

Nell: I’m afraid it’s one of the Beaky Blinders.

Me: Who are the Beaky Blinders?

Nell: Let’s just say they make the Beefies look like canaries.

Me: Yellow?

Nell: No. Soft and harmless.

Me: Oh dear. Sorry.


Making plans for Nigel

Me: Why the worried faces?

Nell: We are waiting for feedback.

Me: From Nigel?

Nell: Yes. He is being wired as we speak.

Me: What if he has to take his collar off?

Nell: He will refuse. He’s bad. Bad dogs don’t behave.

Me: Of course.

Nell: Sally’s not sure he’s going to be able to do it.

Me: Why?

Nell: He shared his ham sandwich with a tired looking beagle on the train to London.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: A bad animal would have just wolfed it down.

Me: So would Nigel normally.

Nell: Yes, I think it was nerves.

Me: Probably.

Nell: Now, we have reason to believe that The Black Claw have someone out in the field scouting for potential nasties.

Me: There are plenty of those in our field after the cows have been grazing. I stepped in one recently.

Nell: I’m talking about recruiting bad animals, not stepping in cow pats. Good grief.

Me: Do we know who this someone is?

Nell: Not yet. We’re hoping Nigel will be able to find out.

Me: Animals join BAD because they want to change and be good, don’t they?

Nell: Yes. But you often get a few mouldy biscuits in the box.

Me: Don’t you mean rotten apples in the barrel?

Nell: No.

Me: What if Nigel turns bad?

Nell: He won’t. I’m sure.

Me: You are?

Nell: Yes. Nigel is a Labrador and we Labradors are naturally kind.

Me: True.

Nell: By the way, if you see a small woodlouse in the downstairs facilities, please leave it alone.

Me: A woodlouse?

Nell: Yes. It’s Henry. David’s friend. He wandered in from the garden and is having a rest.

Me: From the sun?

Nell: No, from David. He finds all the attention rather tiring.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Naughty Nigel steps up

Me: That’s Naughty Nigel.

Nell: Yes. We were FaceTiming on WoofsApp this morning.

Me: You were?

Nell: I have been rethinking my initial decision to do this alone. To be honest Charlie put his paw down.

Me: Good. I told you how unhappy we all were.

Nell: David actually refused breakfast. He said he was going on hunger strike.

Me: No?

Nell: I was shocked. Fortunately it didn’t last long and he is eating a bacon sandwich as we speak.

Me: What happened?

Nell: Well, you will be pleased to hear that Nigel has agreed to step up.

Me: He has? Does Charlotte know?

Nell: Not yet. Naughtiness comes naturally to Nigel. Remember the egg stealing?

Me: I do.

Nell: And recently Baby Lily’s bath toy was chewed.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Anyway, with guidance, we believe Nigel can move from Naughty to Bad.

Me: I see.

Nell: Personally, I think Bad will be a challenge, but he is willing to try.

Me: So, what exactly is Nigel’s role?

Nell: He is joining BAD as a member.

Me: That sounds awfully dangerous.

Nell: Yes. He will wear a wire in his collar.

Me: It’s very brave of him.

Nell: Dave and Harriet offered to go but they simply aren’t naughty enough.

Me: No, they aren’t. Darling puppies.

Nell: One needs to have achieved a certain degree of naughtiness to be bad.

Me: Gladys is probably close.

Nell: Gladys is very close.

Me: And Poppy could easily be bad.

Nell: She only got back from the South of France last night.

Me: How are the newlyweds?

Nell: Resting in their nest. Malcolm has a tan. I think it’s from the snails.

Me: Could I be bad?

Nell: No.

Me: So it’s Naughty Nigel?

Nell: You mean Bad Nigel.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Harriet is unhappy

Nell: If you’re looking for Harriet she’s up in Kev’s studio under the table.

Me: Why?

Nell: She’s extremely unhappy about Sally’s decision and is Making A Point.

Me: Good for her.

Nell: Listen, The Bad Animal Division are looking for an experienced advisor. A small Pomeranian riding in on a large alpaca is simply not going to cut the custard.

Me: You mean mustard.

Nell: I do not. Whoever heard of mustard on a custard tart?

Me: I wasn’t talking about custard tarts.

Nell: I was and if the custard isn’t set properly it ruins the look and taste. Nobody wants a soggy bottom.

Me: They certainly don’t.

Nell: Now, my interview isn’t until Monday so I have the weekend to prepare.

Me: You better not be away on Thursday because you and I are going for a photo shoot for the book.

Nell: When did you organise that?

Me: Yesterday, Martyn the photographer rang.

Nell: I’ll have to postpone getting my fur dyed now. What a nuisance. Could you stop eating strawberries while we’re talking?

Me: They are part of my five a day.

Nell: You’ve eaten a lot more than five. Trust me.

Me: You usually encourage me to eat fruit.

Nell: Yes, but Belle says leave the fruit and eat the cream.

Me: I don’t like Belle.

Nell: Good. Then I am getting somewhere.

Me: You aren’t really going to dye your fur are you?

Nell: I toyed with the idea but The Cat has some excellent wigs.

Me: I think I should come with you.

Nell: Never happening. I’m doing this to protect you all and I’m doing it alone.

Me: What about you and me always?

Nell: Yes. But Belle is going to that meeting not Nell. So no more arguments.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Who is mad enough to be bad?

Me: Who is it in that photo?

Nell: Cousin Belle.

Me: She looks awfully like you, only meaner.

Nell: Yes. Doesn’t she just?

Me: It’s not a given. I don’t look like my cousins at all.

Nell: I despair of you sometimes.

Me: Why?

Nell: Of course, it’s me.

Me: But you look bad and dangerous and you’re wearing huge sunglasses.

Nell: Yes. I’m showing attitude.

Me: Nothing new there. Hang on. You’re looking mean on purpose, aren’t you?

Nell: Calm down.

Me: You can’t go, Nell.

Nell: I feel I have to put myself forward. This is a dangerous mission. I cannot put anyone else at risk.

Me: I’m sorry but it’s not happening.

Nell: Charlie doesn’t want me to go either. But you know what I’m like when I’ve made my mind up.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Unfortunately, someone else has offered to go undercover.

Me: Who?

Nell: Gladys.

Me: I suppose she is mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Nell: Yes, like Lord Byron.

Me: What a brave little Pomeranian.

Nell: She has one condition, though.

Me: What?

Nell: Alejandro has to accompany her.

Me: Isn’t he too big and fluffy? And he’s still struggling with his English.

Nell: Alejandro was shorn recently and fluffiness can be deceptive as we know from Poppy.

Me: True.

Nell: Alejandro’s English is coming along well apparently and his Spanish accent adds a touch of mystery.

Me: I’ve never really seen Alejandro as mysterious.

Nell: Well, he is now.

Me: Will he wear his Aztec crown?

Nell: Who knows? They are at the Big House with The Cat discussing bad outfits.

Me: Like nylon shirts and polyester slacks?

Nell: No, like leather jackets and big boots. Anyway, the decision hasn’t been made yet. It may be me.

Me: I hope not. Sorry.


Who can it be?

Me: Harriet looks exhausted.

Nell: She was in a meeting with Charlie and Sally until the early hours.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: There’s been a change of leadership at BAD.

Me: What on earth is BAD?

Nell: Everyone knows BAD. The Bad Animal Division of the UA.

Me: The UA?

Nell: United Animals.

Me: Oh dear. Do you have to be a bad animal to join?

Nell: Of course you do. Only bad animals are accepted. The idea is you start out bad and move into good.

Me: That’s actually a great idea.

Nell: Yes, in principle, but unfortunately some animals move from being bad to being nasty.

Me: Nasty?

Nell: Yes, really nasty. They make the Beefies look like angels.

Me: Goodness me.

Nell: They belong to an underground organisation called The Black Claw.

Me: I’m scared already.

Nell: Yes. It is worrying. Sally thinks The Black Claw are trying to turn bad animals into nasty ones and are using BAD to do it.

Me: Dastardly.

Nell: She needs someone to go in undercover.

Me: I don’t think Harriet should be involved. She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. She is never more than a little bit naughty.

Nell: Naughty isn’t enough. They have to find someone who can pretend to be really bad.

Me: Not Dave? He is a good brave boy.

Nell: Of course not. David couldn’t be bad if he tried.

Me: Well, who is it?

Nell: They aren’t sure yet. But I think they have an idea.

Me: I’m not doing it. I can’t, Nell. I know I can be annoying but that isn’t enough.

Nell: It’s not you. Don’t be ridiculous.

Me: But I need to know.

Nell: Wait and see. Stop being so impatient. All will be revealed.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


A postcard from France

Me: It was lovely to see Tony again. It feels like ages since he was here last.

Nell: Yes. He put his back out so he was on bed rest. David knows not to jump up.

Me: They are the best of friends. I love seeing them together.

Nell: Did you see the postcard from France?

Me: No.

Nell: Malcolm and Susan are having a wonderful time. It’s a little too hot for their liking, but they are enjoying the food.

Me: I bet they are.

Nell: Malcolm is exceptionally fond of snails apparently. He has the beak for them.

Me: Rather him than me. When are they coming home?

Nell: Poppy is collecting them on Friday. Alejandro and Gladys wanted to join her but we’re not sure about visas. We don’t want Alejandro ending up in a French jail.

Me: He probably wouldn’t fit in the helicopter anyway. It’s not built for alpacas.

Nell: Of course he would. It’s a Chinook. David travels in it regularly.

Me: How did Poppy get access to such a large helicopter?

Nell: Best not to ask. Let’s just say she has friends in high places.

Me: She would if she’s flying helicopters.

Nell: Very funny. Have you completed your list?

Me: Yes, there are over 200 characters. Can you believe it?

Nell: Of course I can. I’m one of them.

Me: You’re the main one, to be honest.

Nell: It’s kind of you to say so, but we all have our part to play.

Me: Even Dominic Simmons?

Nell: Don’t remind me of that wretched creature with his pale eyes and sneaky ways.

Me: He’s a Siamese cat, Nell. And what about Marwood?

Nell: You can’t mention Marwood.

Me: Why?

Nell: He’s in the book. Nobody knows him yet.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


A hot day

Nell: Now, today is going to be very hot.

Me: Yes. there have been warnings.

Nell: We must make sure everyone drinks plenty of water.

Me: Dave drank water for over 30 seconds. Kev counted.

Nell: David is a large animal. Bowls of water should be placed throughout the house and garden. Hats must be worn at all times when outside.

Me: You didn’t wear one down at the river.

Nell: It was shady. I had my hat in the car, if needed. What about your list of characters from our Conversations?

Me: Harriet and I have found over 100 characters and we haven’t even started on this year yet.

Nell: What can I say? Our world is a busy one.

Me: It certainly is. I hope I can post the list on our page but I will definitely put it on the website.

Nell: Well, you should be gathering email addresses anyway, so you can keep people informed about the book.

Me: Yes. I’m going to have to work out how to do that.

Nell: I believe there is a monkey who can help.

Me: Do you mean Mailchimp?

Nell: That might be his name. Ask Kev.

Me: How is Malcolm and Susan’s nest coming along?

Nell: It’s extremely large and cumbersome but it should be comfortable when The Cat has finished the cushions.

Me: Everyone has worked so hard on it.

Nell: Yes. Alejandro has been carrying panniers full of twigs to and fro, along with Gladys, of course. They are quite an attraction with the tourists.

Me: Does Gladys ride on his back then?

Nell: Yes. On a padded seat carrying a colourful parasol. She likes to give directions.

Me: Sounds like you.

Nell: I beg your pardon? Someone has to organise this family.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Left Out

Nell: Someone has annoyed Harriet.

Me: To be fair, nobody likes Mondays.

Nell: What did you do?

Me: I didn’t do anything. Why do you think it was me?

Nell: Because it often is. Where is David?

Me: Up in the top garden building a nest.

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: AJ the gardening Afghan, Jim the Farm Dog and Ron Gilbert the Great Dane are helping.

Nell: Why?

Me: For Malcolm and Susan. I think Gelato is popping over later and Alejandro is out gathering twigs with Gladys.

Nell: Well, now we know what’s wrong with Harriet.

Me: Do we?

Nell: Yes. She’s been Left Out.

Me: Nest building isn’t really her thing.

Nell: But it’s nice To Be Asked. David knows that. It was part of his training to be a Good Kind Boy.

Me: He is a good kind boy.

Nell: He’s forgotten his sister.

Me: Actually, I think he asked her to make the tea.

Nell: Even worse. Imagine if you wanted to join in and I told you to fill my bowl?

Me: You do. If food is late you definitely let me know. In fact you let me know even before it’s late.

Nell: That’s not the point. Harriet needs to feel included. Where is The Cat?

Me: Designing a sequinned blanket with Timothy for the happy couple.

Nell: Yes. Alejandro has offered his fleece as soon as it grows again.

Me: I don’t suppose Harriet would like to spend some time with me? I’m working on the cast list and she could advise me.

Nell: Perfect. We can feed two dogs with one bowl.

Me: You mean kill two birds with one stone.

Nell: I most certainly do not. The mere idea. Just concentrate on your cast list. I’ll fetch Harriet.

Me: Yes. Sorry.