Why is the Door Closed?

Me: Come away from the door, please.

Nell: Not until you explain why it’s closed.

Me: There’s stuff going on.

Nell: You can’t fool me. This door’s never closed.

Me: Steve needs to go out to his van so the front gate is open.

Nell: Who’s Steve?

Me: Steve’s fixing the shower. You know him. He was here all last week while I was in Germany.

Nell: We weren’t all trapped in the bedroom last week.

Me: This is where I write.

Nell: And?

Me: And you can be with me.

Nell: What if we don’t want to be with you?

Me: You usually do.

Nell: We weren’t imprisoned then.

Me: You’re not imprisoned, Nell. We don’t want you running out of the gate.

Nell: I’m an elderly Labrador. I don’t run anywhere.

Me: You know what I mean.

Nell: I’m surprised you think Poppy is going to put up with this infringement of her rights without a fight.

Me: Her sword is downstairs.

Nell: That’s what you think.

Me: There’s nothing wrong with spending quality time with me, is there?

Nell: Quality time?

Me: Yes.

Nell: You’re writing.

Me: I know.

Nell: And where’s the tea and biscuits?

Me: I’ll get some later.

Nell: There’s more to this. I heard you say to Kev that ‘they’ will be arriving later.

Me: Did you?

Nell: Yes. Who is ‘they’?

Me: Naughty Nigel and Boo are coming to stay for a few days.

Nell: Are you intending to imprison them in here too?

Me: No. Six dogs might be a bit much.

Nell: Didn’t think this through, did you?

Me: I was hoping the weather would be better and you could all play in the garden.

Nell: Play in the garden? We’re mature dogs not dancing llamas.

Me: You’re right. Sorry.


There’s Something Wrong With Dave

Me: There’s something wrong with Dave.

Nell: He was fine at breakfast.

Me: I think he might have a dark side.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous.

Me: He’s wrapped himself in a blanket and he’s looking at me in a sinister way.

Nell: Sinister? David?

Me: I know. Do you think he’s been hypnotised?

Nell: When?

Me: The Beefies flew over earlier shouting something.

Nell: They always do.

Me: What did he have for breakfast?

Nell: The usual. A couple of lightly boiled eggs with hot buttered soldiers on the side and a bowl of tea.

Me: No eating by mistake?

Nell: He cleared the table before everyone had finished but most of us know that’s going to happen so we eat faster.

Me: That must make breakfast a little tense.

Nell: It’s actually quite exciting.

Me: I think he might have eaten something that’s disagreed with him. He’s not himself at all.

Nell: In what way?

Me: He looks like he might pounce.

Nell: Would you say he has more bite to him?

Me: I never mentioned biting. Dave would never bite me. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: But does he look like he might?

Me: A bit.

Nell: Bravo. Well done David. He’s passed this test with flying colours.

Me: What test?

Nell: Snoopy and Lucy were worried that David was too nice to be Indiana Bones. Indy has a ruthless side and he needed to find it.

Me: Oh, I see.

Nell: I said if he could convince you he could convince anyone.

Me: Well, he did.

Nell: Excellent. We’ve finally found our Indy. I’ll give Snoopy and Lucy the good news.

Me: Does that mean Dave can be himself again?

Nell: Let him stay in character a little longer.

Me: I need my boy back. Sorry.


Making the Most of the Sunshine

Me: Why are you giving me one of your looks?

Nell: You know perfectly well.

Me: I don’t.

Nell: All you had to do was rest.

Me: I am.

Nell: What part of rest includes setting the dishwasher on fire?

Me: I just turned it on.

Nell: You’ve only been home a day and you’re already destroying the kitchen.

Me: I didn’t mean to.

Nell: Malcolm has had to take the day off with mild anxiety.

Me: Can you get the day off for that?

Nell: Nobody needs a nervous flamingo.

Me: True.

Nell: All I can say is thank goodness for Manuel’s tentacles.

Me: I’m not sure how to respond to that.

Nell: He’s going to have to do all the washing up as well as making pastry for the pasties.

Me: Can’t we have something else?

Nell: Poppy’s in talks with John the Doberman about supplying Starbarks and he needs some samples.

Me: They’re the perfect lunch.

Nell: Yes. The crew have been enjoying them.

Me: What crew?

Nell: Auditions for ‘Raiders of the Lost Bark’ are still going on, you know.

Me: Right.

Nell: Have you shared the link to the fundraiser for the animation series?

Me: Not for a while.

Nell: We have new followers every day and they won’t know about it.

Me: Here it is: https://gofund.me/547e2a25. Please donate if you can. You will be helping us make a dream come true.

Nell: You’ve obviously been tiring Harriet out. Look at the state of her. She’s fallen asleep on David’s toy.

Me: Dave doesn’t seem worried.

Nell: He’s making the most of the sunshine.

Me: That’s exactly what we should be doing.

Nell: What?

Me: We need to follow Dave’s example.

Nell: Eating pasties by mistake and crashing out on the carpet?

Me: No. Sorry.


Home Again

Me: I don’t think the puppies are ever going to let me out of their sight again. Dave watched over me until I fell asleep and Harriet was there when I woke this morning.

Nell: Even Poppy was overcome with emotion when she saw you come through the door.

Me: Yes. She sprang into my arms and kept licking me over and over and Harriet just squealed.

Nell: They were all quite beside themselves.

Me: My Big Brave Beautiful Boy kept walking around me proudly with a tea towel in his mouth.

Nell: It’s his mayoral walk. He’s been practising for days.

Me: You seemed rather pleased to see me at the station.

Nell: I didn’t squeal.

Me: No. You wagged your tail really hard and we had a wonderful cuddle.

Nell: We did.

Me: Seeing you and Kev waiting for me was so lovely after such a long day of travelling.

Nell: You’re going to have to relax today. No arguments. I heard you coughing.

Me: Yes. I’m very tired.

Nell: And missing the children and grandchildren I expect.

Me: Alice sent me a photo of Jonathan at his desk at school this morning. He looks so happy. Bless him.

Nell: I’m very glad you were able to be there but even more so that you are home again. Here is where you belong.

Me: I know.

Nell: So, where’s that bear?

Me: Are you talking about Herr Hoffmann?

Nell: Of course. I fully expected him to get off the train with you.

Me: Funny you should say that.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Unfortunately the airlines are a bit funny about bears on planes but it seems bears on trains are more acceptable so he might hop on the Eurostar and come over.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Sorry.


A Mixed Feelings Sort of Day

Nell: Now, this is going to be a mixed feelings sort of day for you.

Me: It is.

Nell: You’re excited to be coming home to us all but very sad to be saying goodbye to the family.

Me: Yes. Why is Dave wearing his mayoral hat and chain?

Nell: He was chosen to Make Sure You Come Home.

Me: I see.

Nell: We discussed it at Morning Thoughts and felt David had the necessary authority as Mayor of Kingsbridge to deliver the ultimatum in a photo.

Me: Ultimatum?

Nell: You need to come home. You do realise Sunday Songs has been changed to Monday and there’s no Sunday roast.

Me: What?

Nell: Poppy has refused to cook one until you’re back.

Me: Gosh. What are you having instead?

Nell: Salad. Anyway, tell me about yesterday.

Me: It was a magical family day. The headmaster welcomed all the new pupils and their families.

Nell: Good you were there.

Me: Yes. Jonathan received an official school id card and handshake from his class teacher.

Nell: Excellent.

Me: The headmaster said they’ll be learning English and Jonathan put his hand up to say he could already speak it.

Nell: Good for him.

Me: And when the headmaster asked him to say something in English Jonathan said, ‘Nice to meet you.’

Nell: Good boy. Well mannered.

Me: Afterwards Alice gave him a huge cone full of presents for school which is a German tradition and Faye got a little one too.

Nell: Lovely.

Me: And later we all went to a restaurant and walked back in the evening sunshine tired and happy.

Nell: Which is what you will be when you finally come home to us this evening.

Me: Yes.

Nell; It’s okay to be sad too. Goodbyes are hard.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


The Starting of School Ceremony

Nell: You’re up early.

Me: Jonathan’s Starting School Ceremony begins at 9am so Chris and I are catching an early train.

Nell: Are you well enough?

Me: I have to be.

Nell: I wrote a poem for Jonathan.

Me: How lovely. Would you read it to me?

Nell: Of course.

‘Now listen very carefully

To what I have to say.

Jonathan Sky starts school today.‘

‘Are you sure?‘

‘Absolutely, Harriet says it is true

Poppy agrees

And so must you.‘

‘What about David?

Will he be there?’

No, David’s in Devon

But I believe that a bear

Called Herr Hoffmann

Is attending

Cos he lives nearby

If Sara can persuade him

As he’s awfully shy.’

Me: I never told you Herr Hoffmann was coming.

Nell: But he is, isn’t he?

Me: He might be.

Nell: May I continue?

Me: Please do.

Nell: ‘Mummy and Papa,

Uncle Chris and Faye

Are making sure Granny

Doesn’t get in the way

By taking too many photos

And writing things down

That people don’t want discussed

All over town.’

Me: I don’t do that.

Nell: My friend Dorothy would disagree.

Me: You told me about her and Naughty Nigel.

Nell: And you told everyone else. Where was I?

Me: Criticising me.

Nell: Oh yes.

‘Let the party begin.

Throw your hats in the air.

Bring in the cake.

Pull up a chair.

This is the start

Of something exciting.

Of learning new skills

Like reading and writing.

And all your new friends

Are just waiting to say

Welcome Jonathan Sky

Have a wonderful day.’

Me: He’s going to love that, Nell.

Nell: Take lots of photos.

Me: You know I will.

Nell: Unlike that bear friend of yours, I shall not be attending the ceremony so photos are all I have.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Introducing Herr Hoffmann

Nell: You sound worse.

Me: It’s only a cold, Nell. I’m spending today in bed as it’s Jonathan’s big starting school celebration tomorrow and I have to be there.

Nell: Try and be sensible, please.

Me: I didn’t do much yesterday. We went to Faye’s kindergarten and she cycled home. Darling little thing.

Nell: Clever girl.

Me: Then we played board games with Jonathan Sky and Andre cooked us dinner. It was a lovely family time.

Nell: Poppy and the puppies spent most of their time at the window waiting for you.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: I’ve told them there’s no point until Sunday but they won’t listen.

Me: Bless them.

Nell: Now, I’ve noticed you’ve stopped talking about that bear.

Me: You mean the one in the fetching hat?

Nell: I do. Did he come to your Berlin Breakfast?

Me: Herr Hoffmann joins us every morning. He brings fresh rolls from the bakery.

Nell: Herr Hoffmann?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Don’t you know his first name?

Me: We’re still on formal terms. He’s a very traditional bear with excellent manners. He reminds me of you.

Nell: I’m nothing like a bear.

Me: No, that’s more Dave’s thing. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy. But your manners are impeccable.

Nell: Thank you.

Me: You and Herr Hoffmann would get along very well indeed.

Nell: You’re not bringing him home with you.

Me: I never said I was.

Nell: I know what you’re like.

Me: I don’t even know if Herr Hoffmann has a passport.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Or if there are any seats available on the plane.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Because he would need extra leg room. Being a bear and all that.

Nell: All what?

Me: The fluffiness and the big paws.

Nell: I give up.

Me: Sorry.


Sara is Unwell and Breakfast is Delayed

Nell: You sound absolutely dreadful. What’s wrong with you?

Me: I think I might have caught a cold, Nell.

Nell: I told you not to overdo it.

Me: It started in the cinema yesterday afternoon. I thought it was just the air conditioning giving me a dry throat.

Nell: And now you can hardly speak.

Me: It’s just a head cold. I’ll take it easy today.

Nell: You’d better. How did you get it?

Me: I could have picked it up on the flight, or in the city.

Nell: All that gadding around.

Me: I was having fun with the family.

Nell: Promise me you’ll take care of yourself.

Me: Don’t worry. The children are looking after me.

Nell: Good.

Me: Why are you and Dave sulking under the kitchen table?

Nell: We’re not sulking. We’re waiting.

Me: For me to come home?

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous. Waiting For Someone To Come Home only ever happens at a window. Do keep up.

Me: Of course. What are you waiting for then?

Nell: Bacon sandwiches. Poppy’s out sword fighting with the Indianas so breakfast is delayed.

Me: Did you say ‘Indianas’?

Nell: Yes.

Me: Shouldn’t Dave be out there sword fighting too?

Nell; David can’t do anything physical until after breakfast. He’s a growing animal.

Me: I hope that isn’t true.

Nell: You know what I mean.

Me: Can’t he just have a bowl of cereal?

Nell: A Labrador can’t exist on cereal.

Me: The other Indianas seem to be managing.

Nell: How do you know? You’re not here. They may have brought a picnic.

Me: It would be a terrible shame if Dave missed out on the role of Indiana Bones because of something as insignificant as a bacon sandwich.

Nell: A bacon sandwich is never insignificant.

Me: No. Sorry.


Visiting the Past

Me: You won’t believe how much walking I did yesterday. I can hardly move today.

Nell: Why are you calling this early? I haven’t even had my toast and marmalade yet.

Me: Once I’m awake I can’t get back to sleep and then all I want to do is talk to you and find out what you’ve been doing.

Nell: We had a lovely run in the activity field. I took my time as usual but the others made the most of it.

Me: That’s nice. Would you like to hear how many steps I took?

Nell: Not really, but you’re going to tell me anyway, so go ahead.

Me: 13,045. That’s just under 8.9km.

Nell: Madness. No wonder you’re aching.

Me: Alice, Chris and I went back to where we used to live in Berlin to see our old house and neighbourhood.

Nell: Good.

Me: We put flowers on their father’s grave and I was able to say my goodbye as I couldn’t attend his funeral because of Covid.

Nell: I’m glad you did that.

Me: Yes, so am I.

Nell: And I’m also glad the two children were with you.

Me: Yes. Afterwards we met up with Andre and the grandchildren for an ice cream and I had a banana split. My favourite.

Nell: Fortunate you took so many steps then.

Me: That’s what I thought.

Nell: So, have you seen that bear again?

Me: The one with the rather fetching hat?

Nell: Are there more?

Me: I have actually. It seems awfully charming, Nell.

Nell: How would you know?

Me: I might have invited it over for a Berlin Breakfast later.

Nell: What?

Me: It’s a Berlin tradition to have a long late breakfast.

Nell: I was talking about the bear not the breakfast.

Me: Oh. Sorry.


Good Morning from Germany

Me: Good morning from Germany.

Nell: What are you doing FaceTiming me so early?

Me: We’re an hour ahead of you over here and I couldn’t sleep. Are you on my chair?

Nell: Of course I’m on your chair. It’s where I sleep. David usually has the sofa but he’s on duty.

Me: Where is he?

Nell: With Harriet upstairs sharing the bed with Kev. I told you they were doing the night shift.

Me: How is Kev?

Nell: Absolutely fine the last time I saw him. Enjoying the peace and quiet.

Me: Do you like the view from my window? The apartment is right next to the forest.

Nell: Please don’t come home with a bear. We really don’t have room for another large animal.

Me: There aren’t any bears in Germany.

Nell: Maybe not officially, but if there was one you would probably find it.

Me: The symbol of Berlin is a bear so it would be right and fitting if I met one.

Nell: Don’t even think about it.

Me: You started it.

Nell: What are your plans today?

Me: To recover from yesterday to be honest. It was a very long journey. We left Devon at 7am and didn’t get to the apartment until just before 7pm.

Nell: How were the children?

Me: They were so good. Bless them. And overjoyed to see their father waiting for them at the station.

Nell: I can imagine.

Me: Well, that’s odd.

Nell: What is?

Me: A bear wearing a rather fetching hat just walked past carrying a newspaper. I wonder if it would like a cup of tea?

Nell: Don’t even joke about it.

Me: Who says I was?

Nell: Speak to you later and give my love to everyone.

Me: Including the bear?

Nell: Stop.

Me: Sorry.