And Guests

Me: So, I know I had a little too much champagne yesterday, but why are you three wearing hats?

Nell: I would have thought the answer was obvious.

Me: Well, we all wore hats at my party yesterday, which was amazing by the way, but the party is over.

Nell: Au contraire. The party has just begun.

Me. Now I am really confused.

Nell: David’s invitation from the Palace arrived this morning.

Me: That’s wonderful. My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy is meeting The Queen.

Nell: Having afternoon tea with The Queen to be exact.

Me: I can see why Dave might be wearing a hat but why have you and Harriet joined in?

Nell: The invitation says ‘Her Majesty The Queen requests the company of Mr David St. John Martin and Guests.’

Me: I didn’t know Dave had a middle name.

Nell: That’s not the point. ‘And Guests.’ Plural. More than one.

Me: Oh, I see. Gosh. Do we know how many?

Nell: Not yet. Myfanwy is going to ask Lady Anwen for details, although personally I would say the number seems flexible.

Me: Would you?

Nell: Yes. The Cat has a vast selection of hats for everyone to choose from at the Big House. Mutley and Poppy are over there now.

Me: Are they?

Nell: Yes. Gladys chose a large feathered hat earlier and Henry and Horst are wearing their berets.

Me: That makes sense.

Nell: Malcolm, Susan and Timothy are going over later and Alejandro has his own sombrero.

Me: When it says ‘Guests’, Nell, it might not mean ten.

Nell: I hope it means more than ten. Charlie will be accompanying me and then there are the large beasts and Ginger and we mustn’t forget Sally and Jim the Farm Dog.

Me: Of course not. Sorry.


It’s Sara’s Birthday

Nell: Where is your crown?

Me: Do I have to wear it all day?

Nell: It’s your birthday. How is anyone going to know otherwise?

Me: Maybe I don’t want them to know. When you get older birthdays change.

Nell: Stuff and nonsense. You’ll be refusing cake next.

Me: I wouldn’t go as far as that, but you can cancel the orchestra.

Nell: How did you know about the orchestra?

Me: I was joking. Is there going to be one?

Nell: Of course. It’s the Whippets Institute orchestra. They’ve been rehearsing for weeks with the Welsh corgi choir.

Me: How lovely.

Nell: Large beasts are not allowed on the Bouncy Castle because of their hooves.

Me: That’s a shame. You know how they like to bounce.

Nell: Don’t worry, Jim the Farm Dog has offered the use of his trampoline. Now, guests will be arriving shortly.

Me: Guests?

Nell: Of course it’s your birthday. Do you want to hear your poem?

Me: Yes, please.

Nell: ‘An awful lot of animals are queuing up to say

A very Happy Birthday to you on this fine day.’

Me: It isn’t fine though. It’s horribly grey and rainy.

Nell: It’s poetic licence. May I continue?

Me: Yes.

Nell: ‘Moose, alpacas, reindeer,

Creatures great and small.

Woodlice wearing berets

Birds, both short and tall.

Wolves in knitted cardigans,

Corgis in a shawl.

Dogs of every shape and size

Are gathering one and all.

Poppy, Mutley and Harriet

Your Big Brave Beautiful Boy,

And Kev your darling husband

Wish you a birthday filled with joy.

And finally there’s you and me,

And me and you, it’s true

That’s the way it will always be

Because where there’s me, there’s you.’

Me: Thank you.

Nell: No tears, just smiles. It’s your special day.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


That’s just showing off

Me: What are you and Poppy staring at?

Nell: A group of Beefies in rather stylish trench coats carrying handbags.

Me: Of course. Silly me.

Nell: They were obviously from the new Birdberry range.

Me: You would think it would be difficult to fly in a trench coat, wouldn’t you?

Nell: They wear belts you know.

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: You can’t wear a trench coat without a belt. Do keep up.

Me: I’m surprised they need handbags.

Nell: I think they only use the bags for mackerel which is a crying shame.

Me: It certainly is.

Nell: But what can you do?

Me: Not a lot I suspect.

Nell: No.

Me: Some of the conversations we have are a little strange, aren’t they?

Nell: No. Why?

Me: Discussing seagulls wearing trench coats carrying mackerel in handbags.

Nell: I see nothing strange in that. Have you seen Henry and Horst today?

Me: No.

Nell: They are wearing berets and smocks.

Me: Why?

Nell: Timothy says they have discovered their inner artist.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Quite. They are talking about holding an exhibition of their work.

Me: It won’t be a very big one.

Nell: No. They need a much larger body of work before they can even think of exhibiting.

Me: That’s not what I meant, but you are right.

Nell: Of course I am.

Me: Any news on Dave’s invitation to the Palace?

Nell: No. There was no post yesterday so we are hoping to hear today. David needs some good news.

Me: My poor Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Well, that’s just showing off.

Me: What is?

Nell: Those Beefies in berets and moustaches. Ridiculous.

Me: Are they wearing smocks, too?

Nell: No. They are wearing trench coats. I told you that before.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


For Shannon from Marvin

Me: I love the photos of Shannon and Marvin. What is he wearing in the second one?

Nell: It’s very cold in Toronto you know.

Me: Yes, of course.

Nell: And a pup needs to keep his ears warm.

Me: He looks like a little old lady.

Nell: Don’t be silly.

Me: Was it Marvin you were talking to?

Nell: Yes. We were FaceTiming on our iBones. Marvin is still getting used to WoofsApp.

Me: What were you chatting about?

Nell: Shannon’s birthday. It’s today and Marvin asked me to help surprise her with a poem.

Me: Can I hear it?

Nell: Yes.

‘This poem is for Shannon on her birthday

From rescue pup Marvin who wants me to say

He was frightened, in danger, and oh so alone

Until Shannon and Chris came and gave him a home.

He loves you so much, more than biscuits and steak

More than walks in the park

More than fun by the lake

More than anything ever and ever at all

Because pups give big love, even though they are small.

So Happy Birthday dear Shannon we hope you enjoy

This poem of love from Young Marvin, your boy.’

Me: I’m sure she is going to love it, Nell.

Nell: He means every word. Chris and Shannon saved his life.

Me: Yes. I know they did.

Nell: Rescue dogs need a little longer to realise they are safe and are not going to lose their owners.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Mutley struggled for years.

Me: He had five owners before Kev. Do you ever worry, Nell?

Nell: Excuse me? You without me? Unthinkable. You would never survive.

Me: I know.

Nell: It’s never going to happen, by the way, so stop right there. You and me always. Wherever we are.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Dave is not happy

Me: Oh dear. Look at that face. My Big Brave Beautiful Boy is not happy.

Nell: I’m afraid David is a little out of sorts.

Me: No bacon for breakfast?

Nell: Monday is cereal day.

Me: He hates cereal days. Couldn’t he have a dippy egg?

Nell: No. Fortunately there’s some roast beef left over from yesterday, so he will be having beef sandwiches for lunch.

Me: He’s missing Tony dreadfully.

Nell: He is not getting a dippy egg, so stop it.

Me: I wish Dave’s invitation from the Palace would arrive.

Nell: Yes. Knitwear Wolf is taking Myfanwy as his plus one.

Me: What are they going to wear?

Nell: They will both be wearing knitted outfits from the winter range. The Cat suggested a long flowing coat and a top hat.

Me: Won’t a long coat be too much for Myfanwy ?

Nell: Not for her. For Rupert. She will be in a twinset and pearls.

Me: But she isn’t that kind of corgi. She’s more bohemian.

Nell: Not at the Palace. Standards must be maintained.

Me: By the way, do you know what these tiny pieces of paper are doing on the kitchen table?

Nell: Those are from Timothy’s art class. Henry and Horst got Highly Commended.

Me: I didn’t know they painted.

Nell: They are extremely creative.

Me: They would need to be. How do they hold a paintbrush?

Nell: They don’t. It’s body art. They roll in the paint and then on to the paper.

Me: Clever.

Nell: Timothy says they have huge potential.

Me: Thank goodness the large beasts didn’t join in. The mere idea of them rolling in paint.

Nell: Quite. They are doing a pottery class in the barn.

Me: Are you serious?

Nell: Do I look like I’m joking?

Me: No. Sorry.


Happy Birthday Tony

Me: It’s Tony’s birthday today. Happy Birthday Tony.

Nell: We all gave him our best birthday wishes yesterday when he came to say goodbye.

Me: How is Dave coping?

Nell: I’ve told him that Tony is only going to be away for a week but he’s convinced he’s never going to see him again.

Me: He does that when Kev goes to the shops.

Nell: We dogs struggle with the concept of time. It’s why I prefer to accompany you whenever possible.

Me: If we go on book signings we are going to have to find dog friendly places to stay.

Nell: I’m not sleeping in a tent.

Me: Neither am I. My camping days are over.

Nell: Lets be honest, they never really started. You’re not a sleeping bag girl. And neither, come to that, am I.

Me: I wish it would stop raining.

Nell: The Welsh corgi choir were soaked during Sunday Singing.

Me: Why didn’t they come inside?

Nell: Did you notice the alpaca, moose and reindeer in the living room?

Me: It was too cold for them in the barn, Nell, so Kev lit a fire.

Nell: Or the flamingo, seagull, turkey and Canada goose in the kitchen? Not to mention several labradors, two woodlice and a Maltese cross.

Me: Henry and Horst don’t take up much space.

Nell: What about the large wolf in the corner wearing a beautifully soft paw-knitted sweater and reading the paper to an elderly Patterdale?

Me: Knitwear Wolf always joins us on Sunday mornings.

Nell: And one mustn’t forget the feather cloaked Pomeranian performing a contemporary dance watched by a cat in sequins.

Me: When you put it like that the house does sound rather full.

Nell: No room for a Welsh corgi choir, then?

Me: Not really. Sorry.


Saturday is Treat Day

Me: Is Mutley having a snuggly day?

Nell: It’s grey and cold. What’s an animal supposed to do?

Me: I thought Sunday was Cuddles Day.

Nell: Yes, but, as I explained to you before, cuddles can be given whenever needed.

Me: Can I cuddle you then?

Nell: Certainly not. I have far more important things on my mind.

Me: The Face of Birdberry?

Nell: That, and bacon.

Me: Bacon?

Nell: Yes. Knitwear Wolf is an extremely good mood this morning. He brought us all bacon, as well as the papers.

Me: I thought we were all on diets.

Nell: Everybody needs a treat day.

Me: Don’t you mean a cheat day?

Nell: No. Treating is not cheating. This is not a sneaky biscuit stolen from another dog’s bowl.

Me: No.

Nell: This is crispy bacon with a choice of red, or brown, sauce packed between two slices of Poppy’s freshly baked bread.

Me: Gosh, I’m ever so hungry now.

Nell: Exactly. If you are going to have a treat day then do it properly.

Me: Why is Knitwear Wolf in a good mood?

Nell: He received his invitation from the Palace.

Me: What about Dave? Has he got an invitation?

Nell: David’s has not arrived yet. Tony will be here later to say goodbye before his holiday, so hopefully he will bring it then.

Me: Does the Queen use the normal postal service then? I always imagined courtiers on horseback arriving with scrolls sealed with candle wax.

Nell: Good grief. Just listen to yourself. Why do you think it’s called the Royal Mail?

Me: Oh yes. Of course.

Nell: What on earth is Gladys wearing?

Me: It’s some kind of feathered cloak. She looks just like a peacock.

Nell: That false beak isn’t going to fool anyone.

Me: No. Sorry.


Who could be The Face of Birdberry?

Me: The beach is awfully seaweedy at the moment, isn’t it?

Nell: Seaweedy is not a word, but yes, it is.

Me: Dave really is twice your size.

Nell: Yes, fortunately he appears to have stopped growing.

Me: Thank goodness.

Nell: When you were drying him off after his swim it looked like you were grooming a pony.

Me: I know. Talking of ponies. Alejandro says Gladys wants to be The Face of Birdberry.

Nell: I’ve told you before. She can’t do it. She’s a long haired Pomeranian. There is nothing bird like about her.

Me: What about Ginger the Canada Goose, then?

Nell: Ginger certainly has personality and she makes Timothy laugh, but geese can’t sing.

Me: Does The Face of Birdberry have to sing? Isn’t it all about style?

Nell: Singing is not essential I suppose, but The Face of Birdberry would have to own the catwalk.

Me: That’s it then. The Cat has style and it can certainly walk the walk.

Nell: It also has whiskers and a tail and can’t actually be trusted around birds.

Me: What about Henry and Horst?

Nell: Apart from the fact that they are woodlice and nobody would see them, who makes trench coats that small?

Me: Is Knitwear Wolf worried about the competition?

Nell: No. Not at all. Lady Anwen is organising his invitation to the palace so he is hoping for a royal seal of approval.

Me: Is Dave still invited?

Nell: As far as I know. Once he has his invitation we can begin his training.

Me: What training?

Nell: Etiquette. There is a great deal of bowing in royal circles you know.

Me: By the way, did you know dogs bow before they play together?

Nell: Of course I did. I am a Labrador.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Dogs on Sofas

Me: Can we talk about dogs on sofas for a minute?

Nell: I did enjoy our visit yesterday. So nice to meet your writer friend Anni.

Me: Yes, it was lovely to see her and Brian, too.

Nell: Such a comfortable house and the shortbread was delicious.

Me: We weren’t going to tell anyone about that.

Nell: Really?

Me: Anyway, we still need to discuss the fact that you sat on the sofa. All three sofas to be exact.

Nell: And the views were just wonderful. Those rolling hills. Perfect.

Me: You are doing that not listening to me thing again.

Nell: Anni and I had a lovely chat. She is delighted about Knitwear Wolf and Myfanwy.

Me: The thing is Nell, not everyone allows dogs on sofas. Anni and Brian were fine about it, but we can’t just presume.

Nell: Did I tell you the Beefies have started their own clothing brand?

Me: No?

Nell: It’s called Birdberry. Trench coats, scarves, sunglasses. You know the style.

Me: I noticed they’ve started wearing scarves but I thought the sunglasses were just showing off.

Nell: The trouble is the Beefies are creating quite a buzz with their new campaign. The sparrows were all talking about it at art class.

Me: What campaign?

Nell: They are looking for The Face of Birdberry.

Me: Harriet would be perfect. She’s a spy, so a trench coat and sunglasses are compulsory.

Nell: Honestly, not all spies like to advertise the fact, you know.

Me: True.

Nell: And it’s called Birdberry. The clue is in the name. You need feathers. And before you suggest Gladys, or The Cat, feather boas will not do.

Me: What about Malcolm then? He’s a flamingo.

Nell: Malcolm is a shy trainee chef not an international supermodel.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


David meets Molly

Nell: David is never going to learn.

Me: Learn what?

Nell: Showing Restraint. When one is introduced to someone new, one does not throw oneself into their arms.

Me: I suppose that is a little forward. What happened?

Nell: Tony brought a lovely young colleague of his called Molly to meet us and David overreacted.

Me. My Big Brave Beautiful Boy. He can’t help it.

Nell: Tony is going away for 2 weeks on Sunday but don’t tell David.

Me: Shouldn’t we warn him?

Nell: No. It doesn’t make it any easier. He just dwells on it. Remember when you went to Berlin last year?

Me: When Baby Snail was born?

Nell: Your granddaughter’s name is Faye Raine. You may call her Rainbow but not Baby Snail.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Anyway, where was I?

Me: I was visiting Rainbow.

Nell: Yes, David worried about you leaving for days. We can’t tell him about Tony.

Me: He seems to like Molly.

Nell: He loves Molly.

Me: If we ran a hotel we would put Dave on reception.

Nell: Are you out of your mind? Guests would be dropping like fish at his boisterous welcome.

Me: Don’t you mean flies?

Nell: Certainly not. Beefies don’t drop flies. Nobody would notice. They drop mackerel. Do keep up.

Me: Well, he could carry their bags. He is ever so good at carrying Gladys around in your handbag.

Nell: I know we have a lot of visitors at the moment but we are not going to run a hotel.

Me: Do you know why there are a group of sparrows in the kitchen, by the way?

Nell: Were they carrying paintbrushes?

Me: Yes. Are they doing some decorating?

Nell: No. They are here for Timothy’s art class. Didn’t you see the posters?

Me: No. Sorry.