Tennis Balls and Invitations

Me: This might be a difficult question.

Nell: Try asking it.

Me: Is there any particular reason why you and Dave have brand new yellow tennis balls and Harriet and Poppy have none?

Nell: We secured them first. Why?

Me: It’s only that Harriet and Poppy don’t look very happy. In fact I would go so far as to say Poppy looks extremely put out.

Nell: Does she?

Me: She’s turned her back on everyone.

Nell: Poppy doesn’t even like tennis balls.

Me: I know but sometimes it’s more about the Not Having then the actual Having, if you know what I mean.

Nell: I don’t. David will give his ball to Harriet as soon as we are on the beach and, as previously mentioned, Poppy doesn’t even like them.

Me: Maybe you could roll yours over to her for a bit?

Nell: Certainly not. Poppy and I are far too busy today to be concerned with tennis balls.

Me: If you say so.

Nell: Now, the Maine Coons are expected at 4pm.

Me: Is Lionel King driving them here in his Rolls Royce?

Nell: Possibly. The Whippets Institute minibus will have to park near the Big House to allow space for the Rolls.

Me: I didn’t know they were coming.

Nell: The llamas can’t dance without a Big Band. Do keep up.

Me: Oh yes.

Nell: And The Cat is an honorary member so they were always going to show their support.

Me: This is turning into a proper celebration.

Nell: Yes, it is.

Me: We could pretend we celebrate The Cat every year and we accidentally invited the Maine Coons to afternoon tea at the same time.

Nell: Nonsense. An accidental invitation is not something I would ever allow. I have standards to maintain.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


Cowardy Custard and Toasties

Me: What’s Dave doing out there? He’s been staring at something for ages.

Nell; It’s just Walter Pigeon. They’re playing Cowardy Custard.

Me: They’re ever so focussed.

Nell: Yes, once they start they can play for hours.

Me: I’ve never seen Dave concentrate so hard.

Nell: David is the Cowardy Custard Champion. He has a lot to lose.

Me: How do you play?

Nell: It’s the first one to move.

Me: Lucky there are no bacon sandwiches around then.

Nell: Talking of sandwiches, Poppy says you can have tuna if you want. She is casting all her former misgivings to the wind and going wild.

Me: I wouldn’t call tuna sandwiches wild.

Nell: They are in Poppy’s eyes. Some of the sandwiches are even going to be toasted.

Me: Goodness me.

Nell: Kev happened to mention he loves a toasted cheese sandwich and Poppy immediately added them to the menu.

Me: That is wild.

Nell: Indeed, and I have told her we might need to serve them with a warning.

Me: I’m sure everyone knows how to use a napkin.

Nell: Why bring napkins into this? A warning about the risk of mouth burning. Melted cheese is very hot.

Me: It is, especially with tomatoes.

Nell: Who mentioned tomatoes?

Me: They’re lovely in a cheese toastie.

Nell: Don’t say toastie, please, and nobody wants that salady stuff. Limp lettuce has ruined many a good sandwich.

Me: I like it.

Nell: You do realise you can only be an observer at afternoon tea, don’t you?

Me: Do you mean I’m not getting anything to eat?

Nell: Of course you will eat but do it quietly.

Me: I’m not a noisy eater.

Nell: I mean don’t interact with the guests. You have a dreadful tendency to over share.

Me: I see. Sorry.


A Making Decisions and Watching Harriet Swim Sort of Day

Me: There’s nothing like a refreshing swim on a sunny day.

Nell: I shall leave that to Harriet. A brisk walk followed by a quick paddle is fine with me.

Me: Yes, me too. I’m saving the swimming for when the sea is a bit warmer.

Nell: A sensible decision.

Me: Talking of decisions, have you decided which option to choose for the Maine Coon visit?

Nell: Yes. I’m pleased to say the voting was unanimously in favour of Option 2.

Me: So, there will be dancing llamas?

Nell: There certainly will, along with singing corgis, somersaulting seals and a flamboyance of flamingos.

Me: I thought Count Bingo Flamingo would want to be involved.

Nell: Yes, as soon as Malcolm told him he insisted on joining in. As he pointed out, ‘This is The Cat. Our dear friend. We need to show our support.’

Me: Is The Cat happy with it all?

Nell: More than happy. It burst into tears.

Me: Bless.

Nell: And so did David.

Me: My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy has such a big heart.

Nell: He feels responsible. If the Maine Coons hadn’t decided to try and coax him away The Cat would never have been involved.

Me: Do we know why they chose Dave? He isn’t really a minimalistic sort of dog.

Nell: We don’t. But it’s a question I’m going to ask them.

Me: Is that wise?

Nell: I don’t care. I need to know what’s going on.

Me: I still think that wretched lion is behind all this.

Nell: Moving on. Do you think a Royal Owl Force flypast is too much? Owl Pacino was asking.

Me: Nothing is too much for The Cat in my book.

Nell: This is going in a book then, is it?

Me: I’m afraid so. Sorry.


Tony and Toby and Options

Me: Look at Toby kissing Tony. Hasn’t he grown?

Nell: Toby certainly appears to be taking after his Uncle David.

Me: Darling boy.

Nell: Now, Rupert gave us some interesting feedback on his visit to The Cat at the Big House.

Me: Do tell.

Nell: It seems The Cat is rather frowned upon in the Maine Coon family.

Me: You mean The Cat is the black sheep?

Nell: Why are you bringing sheep into this?

Me: Never mind. What has The Cat done?

Nell: This is going to be a shocking revelation and one you would never expect to hear in conjunction with The Cat.

Me: Tell me.

Nell: The Maine Coons are Minimalists.

Me: They’re what?

Nell: Yes, I was shocked too and one of the llamas fainted.

Me: What does Minimalist mean?

Nell: They don’t like fuss. Muted colours. Clean lines. No frills or frippery and definitely no sequins.

Me: Oh my goodness. No wonder the llama fainted.

Nell: It is hard to believe the awful time The Cat must have had before it broke free.

Me: Yes. The Cat without sequins is like Rupert without a cardigan.

Nell: Rupert is never without a cardigan.

Me: You know what I mean.

Nell: Anyway, the big question now is how to handle the Maine Coon visit.

Me: Yes.

Nell: As I see it we have two options.

Me: Ok.

Nell: Option One is to conform. Tone everything down. No hats. No colours. No fuss.

Me: No sequins?

Nell: Exactly. Or, Option Two we do the opposite. Glittery glamour with all the extravagance we can manage and sequins everywhere.

Me: I don’t know about you but I’m Option Two all the way.

Nell: Yes. I’m inclined to agree.

Me: Bring on the dancing llamas.

Nell: Must we?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Labrador Lent

Me: Dave just gave me a really disapproving look.

Nell: What have you done now?

Me: Nothing. We were discussing sandwiches and I said Poppy could try serving tuna instead of smoked salmon.

Nell: To the Maine Coons?

Me: Yes. And that nothing beats a good tuna sandwich, or pizza come to that.

Nell: You mentioned pizza?

Me: Yes.

Nell: To David?

Me: Dave loves pizza.

Nell: David has given up pizza for Lent.

Me: But Lent is over.

Nell: Labrador Lent lasts for the whole of April.

Me: Well, that’s not fair.

Nell: I’ll tell you what’s not fair. Mentioning pizzas.

Me: I didn’t know. What did you give up?

Nell: Lentils.

Me: You don’t even like lentils. You just made that up. You’ve never eaten a lentil in your life.

Nell: We’ll never know now, will we?

Me: You said lentils because of Lent,

Nell: Of course I did. Labrador Lent.

Me: I give up.

Nell: Poppy wants afternoon tea to be traditional so tuna is definitely off the menu.

Me: You’ll be telling me Maine Coons don’t eat scones next.

Nell: I will not. David met them over a cream tea on Dartmoor if you remember.

Me: Oh yes. I presume there will be sequinned napkins knowing The Cat and we shall all have to dress up.

Nell: I’m not sure. The Cat seemed rather reticent when Poppy suggested adding a little sparkle.

Me: How odd.

Nell: Yes. We were thinking of edible glitter on the cake but The Cat wasn’t having it.

Me: I wonder why.

Nell: Sally has asked Rupert to find out more. He’s over at the Big House now.

Me: I could have gone with him. I’m awfully good at taking notes.

Nell: And then sharing them with everyone.

Me: Oh yes. Sorry.


Poppy makes a Suggestion

Me: Are Poppy and the puppies waiting for someone?

Nell: Always. Now, you might have noticed The Cat joined us at Morning Thoughts,

Me: I was upstairs writing, Nell. I didn’t notice anything.

Nell: Well, it did and I’m pleased to say that it managed a small portion of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs later and a large Americano from Babycakes Gillespie’s coffee cart.

Me: Had it stopped eating then?

Nell: Yes. Maine Coons can’t eat when they’re stressed.

Me: I’m the opposite.

Nell: I know. The Two Doughnuts Incident is never to be forgotten.

Me: I had Covid. I needed sugar.

Nell: The second doughnut was Kev’s.

Me: He didn’t mind.

Nell: Moving on. Poppy made an interesting suggestion at Morning Thoughts which I’d like you to consider in a calm and reasonable way.

Me: Does it involve her sword?

Nell: Not directly, hopefully, although she has taken to carrying it since she became David’s bodyguard.

Me: Poppy is Dave’s bodyguard? Isn’t that the wrong way round?

Nell: Never underestimate the Power of Poppy.

Me: No, you’re right.

Nell: Talking of bodyguards, you may also notice David wearing a hat more often than recently.

Me: Fashion statement?

Nell: No. Henry and Horst are joining the PPT and will set up HQ for the ID in David’s hat.

Me: PPT and ID?

Nell: Poppy’s Protection Team and the Insect Division. Do keep up.

Me: This is beginning to feel like an episode of Line of Duty.

Nell: I can assure you that this is most definitely not a television show.

Me: Anyway, what’s Poppy’s suggestion?

Nell: We invite the Maine Coons to afternoon tea.

Me: Will there be sandwiches as well as scones?

Nell: Yes, but that’s not the point. Keep your enemies close.

Me: And the sandwiches closer. Sorry.


You’re not going to believe this

Me: Something very strange is going on.

Nell: So, you’ve noticed.

Me: The Cat arrived for Sunday Songs in an excessively extravagant hat.

Nell: Yes.

Me: The Cat never attends Sunday Songs. It’s hardly ever seen before 10am and then only in a silk dressing gown with a double espresso.

Nell: I know.

Me: And you and Dave have been sitting on the sofa all morning in deep conversation ending with Dave hanging his head in complete devastation.

Nell: Complete devastation? Stop exaggerating. David simply needs time to process the news.

Me: And you were both lying on the old green ‘drying the dogs after their swim’ towel.

Nell: Which has nothing to do with anything apart from sandy wet coats.

Me: Hang on. Process what news?

Nell: You’re not going to believe this.

Me: You might be right.

Nell: There’s something about The Cat we never noticed until today.

Me: It’s rather flamboyant and secretly listens to Barry Manilow?

Nell: Everyone knows that.

Me: What then?

Nell: The Cat is a Maine Coon.

Me: Oh my goodness. It is. Why didn’t we realise?

Nell: I don’t know. Maybe because The Cat is The Cat and we see it every day.

Me: You don’t think The Cat is in league with the two fluffy Maine Coons, do you?

Nell: Of course not.

Me: You don’t think The Cat is actually the evil head of a large Labrador stealing network?

Nell: Just listen to yourself.

Me: It’s awfully fond of Dave.

Nell: Exactly. The Cat and David are best friends. It would never harm him.

Me; Why is Dave hanging his head then?

Nell: Because The Cat’s Mother would.

Me: The Cat’s Mother?

Nell: And so would its twin sisters.

Me: Twin sisters?

Nell: Stop repeating everything I say.

Me: Sorry.


Missing Treats

Me: What’s Dave doing in the activity field?

Nell: David is carrying out some General Investigations.

Me: Looking for Missed Treats?

Nell: Probably. Now, you’re not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: My friend Dorothy says the Pointer Sisters bumped into the Maine Coons in the chilled food section at Barks and Spencer.

Me: Did they hurt themselves?

Nell: Not literally. Good grief.

Me: I see, what happened?

Nell: They were buying sandwiches.

Me: What kind?

Nell: Smoked salmon.

Me: Good decision.

Nell: And sausage rolls.

Me: Surprising choice for a cat.

Nell: That’s not the surprising part.

Me: What is?

Nell: The Maine Coons were talking about David.

Me: My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy?

Nell: Yes. In a complimentary but rather predatory way.

Me: Well, that’s good to hear. Apart from the predatory bit which is a little worrying.

Nell: They were saying what a handsome hound he is.

Me: Unusual praise from a cat.

Nell: Quite.

Me: Apart from The Cat of course, who is Dave’s biggest fan.

Nell: They were also licking their lips.

Me: I don’t like the sound of that.

Nell: And purring.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: And winding their tails around the shopping trolley.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: In a lascivious sort of way.

Me: Can you wind your tail in a lascivious way?

Nell: Maine Coons can.

Me: Do you think they want Dave back?

Nell: I do.

Me: Well, they’re not having him. There’s absolutely no way he would ever even consider it.

Nell: Except the sandwiches they bought weren’t only smoked salmon.

Me: Are we talking bacon here?

Nell: I’m afraid so.

Me: Wait. Dave is searching for Missed Treats in the activity field.

Nell: You’d better stop talking then and get him back now.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Bitey Faces

Me: I can’t believe you were playing Bitey Faces with Harriet. You were behaving just like a puppy.

Nell: Harriet started it with a blatant Cheeky Animal which could not be ignored.

Me: Yes, I saw her tongue was out.

Nell: In situations like that Bitey Faces is the only answer.

Me: You certainly looked ferocious. You had your mouth open like a crocodile.

Nell: Well spotted. The Crocodile Manoeuvre is one of the more difficult techniques.

Me: You convinced me. I thought Harriet was done for.

Nell: She was. I don’t play very often but when I do I tend to win.

Me: Dave and I were completely spellbound.

Nell: I hope David was making notes.

Me: I’m sure he was. In his head.

Nell: Talking of heads. Tony was telling me that someone complimented Young Toby on his classic Labrador head.

Me: Yes, I think it’s called a Drakeshead, isn’t it?

Nell: Drakeshead is actually the British Labrador Kennel name but it’s become synonymous with classic Labrador good looks.

Me: Oh, I see. Anyway Toby is certainly a beautiful boy.

Nell: Of course he is. David is his Uncle and I am his Great Aunt. Toby can’t help but be dashing.

Me: Dashing where?

Nell: Dashing as in handsome.

Me: Gotcha.

Nell: Very funny.

Me: Well, I must say that’s something you don’t see every day.

Nell: Are you talking about the Rolls Royce that just drove past us?

Me: Yes.

Nell: It’s certainly not very suitable for driving around our tiny Devon lanes.

Me: Especially when it’s being driven that fast.

Nell: Quite.

Me: By a lion.

Nell: A lion?

Me: In a chauffeur’s cap.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: With two huge fluffy cats in the back.

Nell: Lionel King?

Me: Yes, and the Maine Coons. Sorry.


Our Beach, But Not For Much Longer

Me: It was lovely to see all those families enjoying our beach, wasn’t it?

Nell: It’s not going to be our beach for much longer.

Me: I know. It does seem harsh that we’re banned from May until October.

Nell: You and Kev can go there whenever you like.

Me: I know we can but it isn’t the same without you.

Nell: I suppose the dog beach has its attractions.

Me: The walk there is lovely.

Nell: There are a few too many dogs, perhaps, but otherwise it’s fine.

Me: You can’t say that, Nell. Not when we arrive with at least four dogs, not to mention the occasional llama.

Nell: Llamas don’t need to go on the dog beach. They’re allowed on the main one.

Me: I don’t think they are.

Nell: Does it say they aren’t?

Me: No.

Nell: Well then.

Me: Just because it doesn’t say they aren’t doesn’t mean they are.

Nell: It does in my book.

Me: They can’t list every animal.

Nell: I’m going to send the llamas down to the main beach on 1st May and we shall see what happens.

Me: They’ll probably be fined, Nell.

Nell: There’s no earthly point in fining a llama.

Me: Why not?

Nell: They never pay. Everyone knows that. Llamas don’t give a jig about rules.

Me: You mean fig.

Nell: Don’t bring fruit into this.

Me: If I didn’t know better I’d say you were trying to cause chaos.

Nell: Chaos? Me? I would never do such a thing.

Me: We both know you would, Nell. You have a naughty side.

Nell: All I know is llamas love the main beach. Plenty of room for cartwheeling.

Me: You won’t really do it.

Nell: Never challenge a senior Labrador. You will always lose.

Me: Yes. Sorry.