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It’s Alex’s Birthday

Me: Dave’s fallen asleep in a top hat with his bowl in his paw.

Nell: Yes. He’s exhausted. He was breakdancing for the children earlier.

Me: Breakdancing?

Nell: Yes. It’s something we all do.

Me: I thought you were just rolling on your backs. I’ve seen you do it lots of times.

Nell: Rolling on our backs? Didn’t you notice the careful twist of body and tail?

Me: Sort of.

Nell: It’s very complicated. Pay attention next time.

Me: I will.

Nell: The children were very impressed. Now, you will be pleased you hear that The Great Mutliano is making excellent progress with Malcolm.

Me: Oh good. I hope Alejandro wasn’t sawn in half.

Nell: No. He was rather disappointed so Gladys has promised him a slot in the next show.

Me: The next show?

Nell: Yes. The Great Mutliano has agreed to a Halloween Special. Anyway, back to Malcolm.

Me: How is he?

Nell: He isn’t at the grey stage yet but we have moved from primary colours to pastels.

Me: That’s a step in the right direction.

Nell: Timothy was able to eat his morning muesli without Malcolm throwing beakfuls of red cranberries in it.

Me: I like cranberries.

Nell: That’s not the point. It’s your little sister Alex’s birthday today, isn’t it?

Me: Yes. We’re taking her out to lunch.

Nell: I’ve written a poem. Shall I read it?

Me: Yes, please.

Nell: ‘My dear Alex I’m extremely delighted to say

Happy Birthday to you on your special day.

May there be sunshine and clear skies above

And cake and cuddles and oceans of love.

Throw your hats in the air and all shout ‘Hurrah’

Let’s celebrate the happiness of Alex’s day.’

Me: She will love it. You old softy.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Sorry.

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The Great Mutliano steps in

Me: You’re going to speak Swedish aren’t you?

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Please don’t be nice to me.

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: I can tell by the way you are holding your paws.

Nell: You can tell what?

Me: That Sven Gully has got to you.

Nell: I am merely engaged in gentle contemplation of the day ahead.

Me: Oh. Thank goodness because you are actually quite scary when you’re nice.

Nell: I am going to ignore that remark. Now, the plan to save Malcolm is well underway.

Me: Good.

Nell: Fortunately we have The Great Mutliano.

Me: You mean Mutley.

Nell: Of course I mean Mutley but when he has his hypnotist’s hat on we refer to him by his full name.

Me: I see.

Nell: Malcolm is having a quiet breakfast with The Great Mutliano as we speak.

Me: Is that why Gladys is wearing a sequinned cloak? Only I wondered.

Nell: Yes. Gladys is his assistant but she’s taken it a little too far as usual.

Me: Is there is a reason why Alejandro is lying in a box?

Nell: He thinks he’s going to be sawn in half but that’s only the stage show. Someone needs to tell him. We can’t have a huge box cluttering up the living room.

Me: Is Mutliano going to hypnotise Malcolm?

Nell: Of course he is. It’s not just a bonding session over a bacon sandwich.

Me: Malcolm doesn’t like bacon.

Nell: That’s not the point.

Me: You’ll get nowhere with bacon.

Nell: Poppy has made him a prawn omelette. Stop fussing.

Me: Is Dave supposed to be wearing his top hat?

Nell: Yes.

Me: And tails?

Nell: You can’t have a top hat without tails. Everyone knows that. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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He is back

Me: Where are the puppies?

Nell: Harriet is giving Jonathan a morning tickle and David is supervising his breakfast.

Me: Boiled eggs?

Nell: Yes, followed by blackberry jam on toast.

Me: Any news from Henry?

Nell: Big News. I’ve just been discussing it at Morning Thoughts.

Me: Tell me.

Nell: Henry suspects Malcolm has been hypnotised.

Me: No?

Nell: I’m afraid so. I did wonder when he said ‘de behöver mer färg‘ about the fishcakes.

Me: Did he have one stuck in his throat?

Nell: No. It means ‘They need more colour’ in Swedish.

Me: Were the fishcakes pale then?

Nell: That’s not the point. Malcolm was speaking Swedish. The reason is obvious.

Me: He is learning a new language?

Nell: No. Have you forgotten the Swedish incident last May?

Me: Do you mean when everyone started speaking Swedish and you were nice to me?

Nell: Exactly.

Me: But Malcolm is being nasty.

Nell: Malcolm is behaving out of character.

Me: Like you were?

Nell: Yes. Henry has also confirmed that Malcolm has been dreaming in Swedish.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: So it is safe to assume that he is back.

Me: Who?

Nell: Sven Gully.

Me: You mean Stephen Seagull’s Swedish cousin the evil hypnotist? That Sven Gully?

Nell: Yes. Of course.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: He is obviously working for the Black Claw so we have to be on our guard.

Me: What can we do?

Nell: Hats must be worn at all times and no staring at the sky. If you see any odd behaviour let me know.

Me: To be honest there’s quite a lot of odd behaviour around here so it might be rather difficult to tell.

Nell: Remember The Cat wore socks and sandals and Harriet ate pickled fish.

Me: Yes. That was odd. Sorry.

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Canadian Thanksgiving

Me: Harriet looks concerned. Is it the Mondays?

Nell: No. It’s Malcolm.

Me: Why? What’s happened?

Nell: He snapped at Susan. He said she was too grey?

Me: Malcolm always loved Susan’s grey feathers.

Nell: Yes. But Nasty Malcolm only likes strong colours.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Knitwear Wolf is on his way.

Me: He’s not going to eat Malcolm, is he?

Nell: Malcolm isn’t Little Red Riding Hood. Although, he would probably approve of her colourful outfit.

Me: Is Knitwear Wolf going to reason with Malcolm?

Nell: No. He’s bringing him a scarf.

Me: I hope it’s colourful.

Nell: Yes. I contacted Myfanwy earlier on WoofsApp and the Welsh corgi choir knitted one quickly. Orange, pink and green.

Me: Very garish.

Nell: Yes. He will love it.

Me: I know the scarf will improve Malcolm’s mood but we really need to know what’s going on.

Nell: The scarf will be bugged. Henry has kindly volunteered.

Me: He’s a brave woodlouse.

Nell: The small are often the most courageous. Look at Poppy.

Me: True. I’ve noticed she’s started carrying her sword again.

Nell: It’s a precautionary measure. She points it at Malcolm when he gets mouthy.

Me: Has Malcolm been rude to her?

Nell: Oh yes. After the croissant incident you would have thought he’d learned his lesson but quite the opposite.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: The bacon needs to be crispier, the eggs softer, the toast toastier.

Me: Goodness me.

Nell: He has even started to throw things away and you know how Poppy hates wastage.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Fortunately David is usually on paw to catch whatever is thrown and Harriet is happy to help.

Me: Is that why everyone is waving bacon?

Nell: No. It’s Canadian Thanksgiving and we always wave bacon. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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A quiet Sunday

Nell: Would you mind not interrupting us please?

Me: What are you three up to?

Nell: Jonathan is explaining to Faye and I about sailing boats and how they work.

Me: Are you sure Faye is interested?

Nell: Very. She made a few excellent suggestions.

Me: Really?

Nell: We weren’t quite sure what she was saying but we appreciated the enthusiasm.

Me: Talking of enthusiasm Morning Songs started a bit early today, didn’t they?

Nell: The Welsh Corgi Choir thought the children would appreciate ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’.

Me: It’s not every day you look out of your window to a choir of corgis dressed in sou’westers.

Nell: No. Although it seems to happen more frequently than one would expect.

Me: I wish it would stop raining.

Nell: Yes. It’s becoming tedious. Having said that, Jonathan and I agree that there’s nothing quite like a muddy puddle, especially when one is wearing wellington boots.

Me: What are the plans today?

Nell: I believe Knitwear Wolf is joining us for lunch. The children have never met a wolf before.

Me: Especially a stylish one in a cardigan.

Nell: He was wearing a fisherman’s sweater when I saw him. Weather appropriate.

Me: When did you see him?

Nell: He brought the Sunday papers and we enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey and a quiet chat. He was asking after Charlie.

Me: He is a kind wolf.

Nell: Malcolm doesn’t think so. He is still out of sorts. He asked us to leave the kitchen.

Me: He needs bugging, Nell. I’m not joking.

Nell: I am beginning to think you might be right. I’ll talk to Henry and Horst.

Me: What if Malcolm has gone over to the dark side?

Nell: Then we will bring him back. Stop fussing.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Happy Birthday Alice

Me: What an amazing time we had on the beach in spite of the rain.

Nell: Yes. Did I just see you eating chocolate cake for breakfast?

Me: It’s Alice’s birthday. Cake is allowed.

Nell: Why?

Me: It’s a family tradition.

Nell: I don’t think you should go on the bouncy castle until later then.

Me: No. Perhaps not.

Nell: Would you like to hear my poem?

Me: Very much.

Nell: ‘This poem is for someone I happen to know

Who came into the world 35 years ago.

A beautiful someone both outside and in

Beloved by us all, especially Jim.’

Me: Why especially Jim? He’s Harriet’s boyfriend.

Nell: It rhymed. Stop interrupting. Harriet doesn’t mind. Where was I?

Me: Talking nonsense about Jim.

Nell: ‘We love you so much it’s hard to explain,

Way past the moon and twice around Spain’

Me: Spain?

Nell: Quiet.

‘A daughter, a sister, a mother now too

Yes, darling Alice, I’m talking about you.

‘So today is her birthday?’ we ask with great joy.

‘Will there be cake and a going home toy?’

Me: What?

Nell: Everyone likes a going home toy. Do keep up.

Me: But we don’t have any going home toys.

Nell: Of course we do. You didn’t think all those unicorns were yours did you?

Me: I wondered.

Nell: ‘Jonathan Sky has asked me to say

That you’re the best mummy and he’s agreed it with Faye.

They love you the mostest that any child could

And they’re both trying hard to be ever so good.

But David says anyone can make a mistake

And anything is possible as long as there’s cake.

So Happy Birthday Alice from everyone here

We love you so much you are dearer than dear.’

Me: She is.

Nell: She knows.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Is something wrong with Malcolm?

Nell: That incessant honking has to stop. Those Canadians are driving me mad.

Me: They are just cheerful geese.

Nell: There’s no such thing.

Me: It’s a holiday weekend in Canada and it’s Thanksgiving on Monday so they’re bound to be excited.

Nell: Yes, I am aware. Little Marvin is exhausted just thinking about it.

Me: Dear little pup. He is growing up so quickly. You know he is actually from Texas.

Nell: Yes. I knew that.

Me: I expect he speaks with that lovely Texan drawl.

Nell: He has a slight Southern accent but nothing too pronounced. I noticed it the last time we FaceTimed on WoofsApp.

Me: I bet he would love to be here with the family

Nell: Yes. Talking of family it’s Alice’s birthday tomorrow so Poppy is baking two cakes.

Me: Two?

Nell: Yes. Chocolate is Alice’s favourite but it is an Absolute No Go with us dogs so she decided on a Victoria Sandwich as the second one.

Me: You can’t go wrong with a sponge.

Nell: Well, actually Malcolm did. His came out quite wrong so Poppy is having to bake one.

Me: How odd. Malcolm’s sponges are normally perfect.

Nell: Yes. He’s a little out of sorts. He was quite short with Timothy.

Me: How unlike him. He’s such a polite flamingo.

Nell: Yes, and he knows we are coming up to a sensitive time of year for Timothy with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner.

Me: I’ve had an awful thought.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: What if the Black Claw have got to him and Malcolm is turning bad?

Nell: Malcolm is sick of the rain like everyone else and his sponge had a soggy bottom. Stop that nonsense right now we have a birthday to organise.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Battle ready

Me: I think Dave missed me.

Nell: We all did.

Me: I was only gone one night.

Nell: Yes but David suffers with Separation Anxiety.

Me: He likes everyone to be together. Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: We all do. Henry was most concerned about Horst.

Me: I suppose he would have been.

Nell: Those woodlice are joined at the hip.

Me: Do woodlice have hips?

Nell: That’s not the point.

Me: No. I suppose it isn’t.

Nell: An undercover operation like that involving crossing borders and enemy lines is a major undertaking.

Me: He only went to Heathrow on the train.

Nell: Concealed in a shawl. Anything could have happened. You were unaware so you could easily have lost him.

Me: You should have told me he was in my shawl.

Nell: And defeated the point of the whole exercise? No, it was worth the risk. Both Horst and Walter did well.

Me: What information did Horst give Walter about me, anyway?

Nell: Just the usual. ‘Subject ate a hearty dinner including ice cream’. Things like that.

Me: It wasn’t a hearty dinner.

Nell: That’s not the point. Operation Bait the Beefy is ready to go.

Me: How exciting.

Nell: Scarves are knitted and ready for distribution.

Me: Good.

Nell: Bugs are trained and battle ready.

Me: They can’t be expected to fight.

Nell: Some can bite if necessary.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Pigeons are poised to receive and transmit.

Me: I wish they’d stop shouting ‘Work harder, stupid’.

Nell: Yes, that’s annoying. But they can’t start being nice, or they will raise suspicion.

Me: Imagine if you heard them saying ‘Well done, Sweetie’.

Nell: Why on earth would they say that? Pigeons only criticise. Everyone knows that. Honestly I despair of you sometimes. I really do.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Big Mother is watching

Nell: What are they doing?

Me: Our hotel room overlooks Heathrow so we are counting planes.

Nell: You sound happy.

Me: I am. It’s so wonderful to have them here. Hasn’t Baby Snail grown?

Nell: You mean Faye Raine, or Rainbow. Yes, she certainly has and Jonathan Sky too.

Me: Yes.

Nell: You all enjoyed your dinner, didn’t you? You had ice cream.

Me: How do you know that?

Nell: Just guessing.

Me: I wore my shawl, by the way.

Nell: Good. I would wear it today too, if I were you.

Me: An odd thing happened yesterday evening.

Nell: Really?

Me: A pigeon was waiting outside the hotel and followed us.

Nell: How annoying. They can be a little pushy. Silly creatures.

Me: It was wearing a peaked cap.

Nell: I expect it was windy. Kev likes to wear his cap in this weather too.

Me: It looked like Walter.

Nell: They all look like Walter.

Me: It appeared to be listening.

Nell: Birds do that. They cock their heads to one side.

Me: And nodding.

Nell: They do that too. Haven’t you noticed?

Me: If I didn’t know better I would say it was spying on us.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous. Who would want to spy on you?

Me: Yes. I wonder.

Nell: What utter nonsense.

Me: I know you’ve been bugging me.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Just admit it.

Nell: If you must know then yes, we have. It was a trial run.

Me: Did it work?

Nell: Excellently. Horst was able to whisper the information to Walter who flew it home to HQ.

Me: So Big Mother has been watching me.

Nell: We are simply keeping you safe. Just come home now, please. We are all waiting for you. Poppy has baked scones.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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It’s definitely bugged

Me: Those waves were certainly wild.

Nell: The correct term is Messy I believe.

Me: Messy sounds like Dave after a bacon sandwich.

Nell: Yes, he always seems to get sauce everywhere.

Me: Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Now, have you packed?

Me: More or less.

Nell: Less is more in your case. Literally.

Me: I’ll try to pack the minimum.

Nell: Please do. It’s a Travelodge not the Savoy Hotel. Nobody expects you to change for dinner.

Me: I want to look nice for Alice and the children.

Nell: You know as well as I do that it doesn’t matter what you look like.

Me: Yes. That’s true.

Nell: It’s Family. It’s Coming Home.

Me: Yes.

Nell: It’s all about Cuddles and Love.

Me: I can’t wait.

Nell: I shall be accompanying Kev to the station.

Me: Good.

Nell: You have nothing to worry about. He is in safe paws.

Me: I know. Thank you.

Nell: By the way Knitwear Wolf brought you a soft shawl to wear in your favourite sea blue.

Me: I don’t want to be bugged.

Nell: That’s an ungrateful thing to say. Why on earth would we bug you?

Me: Because you like keeping an eye on me.

Nell: Nonsense. It’s just a lovely shawl.

Me: You’ve got your persuasive face on. The one when you are up to something.

Nell: Up to something? Me? Whatever do you mean?

Me: You are being far too nice.

Nell: Honestly. Wear the shawl or don’t. I couldn’t care less.

Me: Of course I’ll wear it.

Nell: Don’t lose it please and make sure it gets enough air.

Me: Enough air?

Nell: Yes. Shawls can go musty if they are shut in.

Me: It’s definitely bugged.

Nell: Just concentrate on bringing those children home.

Me: Yes. Sorry.