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Cardigan, or Cowboy Hat?

Me: The way I see it, Nell, is you are caught between a wolf and a lion.

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: On the one hand there is handsome, reliable Rupert Knitwear Wolf and on the other, handsome, unreliable, bad boy Lionel King.

Nell: I’m not caught anywhere, thank you very much. I am my own Labrador.

Me: Even though you know the sensible choice is the safe one, you’re still drawn to the excitement of the risky one.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: There you sit. Outwardly calm, but inside wrestling with your feelings and the decision you have to make.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: It’s exhausting.

Nell: You’re telling me. I’m exhausted just listening to you.

Me: Maybe we should put it to the vote?

Nell; I beg your pardon?

Me: Rupert, or Lionel?

Nell: Unbelievable.

Me: Cardigan, or cowboy hat?

Nell: Stop.

Me: The cardigans are going to win. I’m sure of it.

Nell: Nobody is going to win because there’s not going to be a vote.

Me: Let’s wait and see.

Nell: If there are any choices to be made then I will make them. Alone.

Me: You wouldn’t like it if I did that.

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: You always want me to discuss my choices with you.

Nell: That’s because you are a hopeless romantic with far too much imagination for your own good and a very loose grip on reality.

Me: Rubbish.

Nell: If you didn’t have my sensible advice to rely on I dread to think what you would do next.

Me: We could offer voters the option of wearing a cardigan, or a cowboy hat.

Nell: And those on the fence would wear both, I suppose?

Me: Are we talking birds here, or the undecided?

Nell: Enough.

Me: Sorry.

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It’s All in the Name

Me: Are the Welsh Corgi Choir going to Riverdance their way through Sunday Songs?

Nell: Never mind that now. Poppy needs some vegetables peeled for the Sunday roast.

Me: But it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day anymore.

Nell: I know that and you know that, but the Welsh Corgi Choir aren’t quite there yet.

Me: They must have awfully tired legs. Look at them kicking away.

Nell: I’m afraid they don’t seem able to stop.

Me: Maybe we need to ask that Irish Wolfhound to play elsewhere.

Nell: What Irish Wolfhound?

Me: You can’t miss him, Nell. He’s the one in the sunglasses playing the fiddle in the middle of the field.

Nell: Oh, you mean Bonio. You can’t ask him to move on. He’s a superstar. We’re lucky he’s here. You must know his band.

Me: U2?

Nell: What do you mean ‘you too’? I already told you, I’m not bothering Bonio.

Me: Never mind.

Nell: Anyway, I need to talk to you about the robins.

Me: Not again.

Nell: Robyn feels you’re not acknowledging the ‘y’ in her name and Robin Junior says it’s only his father who’s called Rob.

Me: But it’s so much easier to call them by the same name. I never know which one it is.

Nell: I’m afraid that is totally unacceptable.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: You wouldn’t call all dogs ‘Lassie’, now would you?

Me: Certainly not.

Nell: Or all lions ‘Simba’?

Me: Roary wouldn’t mind.

Nell: Lionel would never forgive you.

Me: I definitely wouldn’t call all wolves ‘Rupert’.

Nell: There is only one Knitwear Wolf.

Me: I’m glad to hear you say that, Nell, because sometimes I think you may have forgotten just how wonderful he is.

Nell: Rupert is not someone I would ever forget. Trust me.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Saturday Surveillance

Me: I do like a sandy nose. Especially in the sunshine.

Nell: Sandy noses are part of beach life. Any self respecting animal knows that.

Me: Is there a particular reason why Dave keeps staring at the sky?

Nell: David is on Surveillance Duty.

Me: Beefies in cowboy hats?

Nell: Not this time.

Me: There are an awful lot of seagulls around today.

Nell: Just decoys. None of them are Beefies.

Me: How can you tell?

Nell: Size, and the glint in their eye.

Me: I’ll remember that.

Nell: No, you won’t.

Me: So, who’s Dave looking out for then?

Nell: Magpies.

Me: You don’t see many of those on the beach.

Nell: Exactly.

Me: We’ve got an extremely greedy one at home. It’s been stealing the small birds’ food.

Nell: Yes, I know.

Me: Robin’s worried about it.

Nell: Which Robin are you referring to? You know there are three of them now.

Me: I thought there were only two.

Nell: A young robin has joined them. You must have noticed.

Me: I just talk to Rob. Sometimes he’s a little portlier than others and sometimes his feathers are a bit tatty.

Nell: And sometimes Rob isn’t a he at all.

Me: I don’t know about that, Nell.

Nell: Obviously not.

Me: Anyway, I don’t think Dave is going to spot any magpies here.

Nell: You never know.

Me: Kev and I always salute them and say ‘Morning Mr Magpie, and how’s your lady wife today?’

Nell: Many people do.

Me: It’s only superstition but I seem to have to do it.

Nell: It’s gone to their heads, of course.

Me: I can see why, Nell. I could develop airs and graces if everyone saluted me wherever I went.

Nell: Fortunately that’s never going to happen.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Opting Out

Me: Something has upset Dave. He was opting out with his whole self last night.

Nell: What do you mean ‘with his whole self’?

Me: It wasn’t a half hearted kind of opt out, Nell. It was a proper one.

Nell: The tortoise might have said something.

Me: Is it still here?

Nell: Yes. Is that a problem?

Me: It is if my Big Brave Beautiful Boy is going to be upset.

Nell: The tortoise speaks its mind. It’s a straight talker.

Me: What did it say?

Nell: Well, you remember Manuel tried to Riverdance with the Welsh corgi choir yesterday?

Me: Yes, I knew he’d get his tentacles tangled. It was a foregone conclusion.

Nell: Anyway, David decided to make Manuel laugh by doing the Riverdance himself.

Me: He’s such a caring boy.

Nell: And the tortoise might have said dancing isn’t really for the larger animal and maybe he should slow down on the bacon sandwiches.

Me: Slow down on the bacon sandwiches?

Nell: Yes.

Me: Not for the larger animal?

Nell: Yes.

Me: Have you seen the amount of lettuce that tortoise eats? It’s always chewing.

Nell: Tortoises eat slowly.

Me: I’d like to see it try and Riverdance.

Nell: Don’t be silly.

Me: No wonder Dave is opting out. Just imagine if the tortoise said Earl Grey was only for show-offs and everyone should drink Builder’s tea.

Nell: It wouldn’t say that.

Me: Or, senior Labradors should leave the decision making to the young.

Nell: It wouldn’t dare.

Me: Are you sure about that?

Nell: Anyway, I’ve decided on bacon sandwiches for breakfast and I’m asking David to join me.

Me: Will you be performing a Riverdance?

Nell: No, but I shall be enjoying a cup of Earl Grey and cheering David on.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Me: The sea looks lovely but ever so cold I don’t know how you all can go swimming.

Nell: David and I paddle. Harriet swims.

Me: And Poppy?

Nell: Poppy swims if necessary but definitely not otherwise.

Me: I don’t blame her at this time of year.

Nell: Talking of this time of year, why aren’t you wearing green?

Me: I didn’t know I had to.

Nell: It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone wears green.

Me: To be sure they do.

Nell: What’s the matter with you?

Me: I’m grand. Don’t you worry about me.

Nell: Are you trying to sound Irish?

Me: I was, actually.

Nell: Well, stop, please. You are embarrassing yourself.

Me: Did you know I’m actually 14% Irish?

Nell: I did not.

Me: My grandmother’s family were from Dublin.

Nell: I thought you were Welsh?

Me: My father was from Wales.

Nell: You’re quite a mixture, aren’t you?

Me: I am and I love it.

Nell: I am a pure breed pedigree Oxfordshire Labrador.

Me: Yes, I know you are. I’ve seen your Kennel Club certificate. Your real name is Shadow Tonight.

Nell: It is.

Me: I don’t think I would like to call you Shadow.

Nell: Good.

Me: Or even Shady for short.

Nell: I am not shady.

Me: Poppy’s past is a little shady.

Nell: We don’t discuss Poppy’s past.

Me: I know.

Nell: She is a Martin now and that is all that matters.

Me: I agree. So where’s the craic then?

Nell: If you’re referring to our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, then they will begin at lunchtime with an impromptu performance by the Welsh corgi choir.

Me: But they’re Welsh.

Nell: They are Irish for today.

Me: Really?

Nell: Wait until you see their Riverdance. It’s truly unforgettable.

Me: I can imagine. Sorry.

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Biscuits, Fortune Tellers and Seahorses

Me: Harriet is awfully good at catching biscuits.

Nell: We’ve all put on a little weight over the last few years. No need to draw attention.

Me: I wasn’t, Nell. I just noticed her catching skills had improved when we were down on the beach.

Nell: Harriet is at her happiest by the sea.

Me: I think we all are. Talking of sea, I have some exciting news.

Nell: Tell me.

Me: Jonathan Sky called me from Berlin yesterday afternoon to let me know he had passed his ‘Little Seahorse’ examination and is now an official swimmer.

Nell: Well done, Jonathan.

Me: Yes. I’m an extremely proud Granny. He’s looking forward to swimming in the sea when he visits us this summer.

Nell: You’re excited already, aren’t you?

Me: Yes. Very. It’s been over two years. He was only 3 and Faye was a baby the last time I saw them.

Nell: I had my 8th birthday when they were here.

Me: You did and the puppies were only 2.

Nell: You know you’ve been getting their birthdays wrong, don’t you?

Me: Have I?

Nell: Yes. They were born on 19th June not July.

Me: Twins.

Nell: Of very different sizes.

Me: No, I mean their star sign is Gemini.

Nell: Don’t start. Leave the horoscopes to The Cat.

Me: Do you remember when Poppy dressed as a fortune teller?

Nell: She got her head stuck under a throw. You have too much imagination for your own good.

Me: I’ll be glad when Gladys and the llamas come home. The field seems so empty without them.

Nell: Apart from all the sheep.

Me: And the lion.

Nell: What lion?

Me: The one who keeps watching you through his binoculars.

Nell: Nonsense.

Me: In a cowboy hat.

Nell: Enough.

Me: Sorry.

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Back on our Beach

Me: It was wonderful to be back on our beach again, wasn’t it?

Nell: It was delightful. I find the sea clears the mind and soothes the soul.

Me: You were definitely doing some deep thinking.

Nell: Kev and I both enjoy looking out at the sea. We like to lose ourselves in quiet contemplation.

Me: I’m not sure the others were quite so interested in doing that.

Nell: They weren’t. Harriet ran off at the first opportunity.

Me: She finds it difficult to keep still on the beach. She loves the water so much.

Nell: As for David and Poppy. They were looking in completely the wrong direction.

Me: They said they thought they saw a lion in the sand dunes.

Nell: Anyone can say that.

Me: Can they, though?

Nell: This wasn’t about lions. It was about gathering one’s thoughts.

Me: It’s awfully difficult to gather your thoughts if you think you’ve seen a lion.

Nell: Well, they should try harder.

Me: It was wearing binoculars, Nell.

Nell: Probably a tourist. Or a birdwatcher.

Me: And a cowboy hat.

Nell: The sun was surprisingly strong.

Me: And it only had eyes for you.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous.

Me: They think it was Lionel King.

Nell: Lionel King is on tour with ‘The Sound of Music’.

Me: He sent you the roses, didn’t he?

Nell: This is none of your business.

Me: When you were gazing out to sea you were trying to decide what to do, weren’t you?

Nell: About what?

Me: Your dilemma. You’re in a love triangle with Knitwear Wolf and Lionel King..

Nell: Are you singing ‘Caught between two lovers’?

Me: Why? Are you ‘Feeling like a fool’?

Nell: No.

Me: Because ‘Loving both of them is breaking all the rules’?

Nell: Stop.

Me: Sorry.

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Happy 10th Birthday Nell

Me: I can’t believe you are 10 today. Cheeky Animal.

Nell: A lady never discusses her age.

Me: Did you like your cake?

Nell: A piece was missing. I presume David was involved.

Me: He was carrying the cake when a little bit of cream fell out so he had to clean it up.

Nell: Of course he did.

Me: I think it was in all the excitement of me coming home.

Nell: Harriet was speechless with happiness, unlike Poppy.

Me: And my Big Brave Beautiful Boy just sat on me.

Nell: You weren’t going anywhere.

Me: I was so pleased you came to the hotel.

Nell: I always do.

Me: You missed me.

Nell: We missed each other. It was most kind of Rupert to bring me flowers.

Me: It was.

Nell: Sunflowers are so cheerful and appropriate during these troubled times.

Me: Are you going to tell me who sent you the dozen red roses?

Nell: No.

Me: You have to.

Nell: Moving on, I believe you wrote me a poem.

Me: Yes. Would you like to hear it?

Nell: I would.

Me: ‘Our darling Nell is 10 today.

We love her more than words can say.

Without her guidance we would struggle

With decisions in life

Like who to cuddle.‘

Nell: That’s not a life changing decision.

Me: It could be, Nell. Cuddling the wrong person can lead to all sorts of complications. Ask Dave.

Nell: Just continue, please.

Me: ‘So, Happy Birthday dear Nell

From all of us here.

From near and far

And far and near.’

Nell: Good grief.

Me: ‘You are the one

We trust the most.

You are the marmalade

On our toast.’

Nell: Thank you but I think you’d better leave the writing of poems to me in future.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Coming Home

Me: Look at you all waiting on the bed.

Nell: Are you coming home today?

Me: Yes, this afternoon.

Nell: Good. It’s time.

Me: It’s been a lovely few days. Writing is such a solitary activity. Spending time with other writers is important.

Nell: Well, don’t expect any solitary activity here.

Me: Why? I thought the house might be quieter without Gladys, Alejandro and the llamas.

Nell: Not with Clap and Splash going on.

Me: What?

Nell: Princess and Our Penguin have replaced Glide with Gladys with an Aqua Zumba class in her pool.

Me: I thought Princess was away playing the Mother Superior in ‘The Sound of Music’?

Nell: She pulled out in solidarity with Harriet and Rupert.

Me: So who’s taken her place?

Nell: You’re not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: Stephen Seagull.

Me: I was not expecting that.

Nell: Nobody was. My friend Dorothy was speechless when I told her. And you know what Dorothy is like. She has an opinion on everything.

Me: She is a Salcombe Setter, Nell.

Nell: Quite.

Me: How did it happen?

Nell: When Stephen heard Lionel was directing he insisted on joining the cast.

Me: Did Lionel King agree?

Nell: He had no choice. Stephen Seagull put his webbed foot down.

Me: I know he can dance a little but can he sing?

Nell: Not really. Fortunately the Whippets Institute are there to support him.

Me: With cake?

Nell: No. They are playing the nuns.

Me: I’ve had a worrying thought.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: The von Trapp children are going to tower over the nuns. Llamas are much larger than whippets.

Nell: That’s the least of their worries. Their Mother Superior is the dastardly leader of an evil gang of seagulls.

Me: You’re right. Sorry.

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Some Familiar Faces

Nell: Good to see your smiling face again.

Me: Thank you. What’s Dave looking at?

Nell: Probably the tortoise. He’s taken against it for some strange reason.

Me: Is it still there?

Nell: I can’t just send it back to Kingsbridge in this uncertain weather.

Me: Can’t you?

Nell: No. Its rucksack could get wet and it doesn’t have a hat.

Me: I didn’t think tortoises cared about rain.

Nell: It’s not a turtle, you know.

Me: Is Lionel King still there?

Nell: Lionel King has gone on tour with the Whippets Institute. Do keep up.

Me: Just checking. Did they find a Maria?

Nell: Yes. A most unsuitable choice.

Me: Who is it?

Nell: Gladys.

Me: Our Gladys?

Nell: Yes. As I said to my friend Dorothy ‘You don’t expect a Pomeranian to be playing a nun. They are far too fluffy.’

Me: She can hide the fluff under her wimple and Maria’s only a nun for a very short time.

Nell: The llamas are joining her on stage.

Me: As nuns?

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous. Llamas can’t be nuns. As the Von Trapp children.

Me: Who’s playing the Baron?

Nell: Alejandro.

Me: Now that is an odd choice. An Ecuadorian alpaca is not at all what people are going to expect.

Nell: I know. His rendition of ‘Edelweiss’ has to be heard to be believed. The tortoise tried to teach him a little German but he struggles with English.

Me: The tortoise speaks German too, does it?

Nell: Of course. How is the writing?

Me: Wonderful. Being by the sea is such a tonic. The words are simply flowing out of me.

Nell: Nothing new there. Anyway, must go. I’m taking tea with the tortoise in French.

Me: You don’t speak French.

Nell: Au contraire.

Me: Right. Sorry.