Nell: So when will you be home?

Me: Late afternoon. Are you coming with Kev to collect me?

Nell: Of course. Did you learn anything new while you were away?

Me: Yes. Did you know Belgians aren’t keen on negotiating?

Nell: Are we talking about the Belgian Malinois, or the Belgian Shepherd?

Me: I’m not sure. How is Hamish managing without his sporran?

Nell: Myfanwy has taken him under her paw. He was a guest soloist at Morning Songs.

Me: With the Welsh corgi choir?

Nell: Yes. It’s Sunday. Hamish isn’t a singer so he joined Gladys in a Highland Fling while the choir sang ‘I love a Lassie’.

Me: I see what you did there.

Nell: One of the Beefies tried to join in on the bagpipes but a well aimed scone soon put a stop to it.

Me: Poppy?

Nell: No. Knitwear Wolf. He has taken to wearing a kilt and I must say it really suits him.

Me: I can imagine.

Nell: David’s kilt is in the Anderson tartan but Sally refused to let him wear his sequinned waistcoat.

Me: It’s a shame Sally won’t let him wear what he wants. That’s not like her.

Nell: Yes. To be honest we’re all finding Sally rather difficult.

Me: Really?

Nell: She seems like a different dog.

Me: Has she been speaking Swedish?

Nell: No. Only a little Spanish with Alejandro.

Me: You don’t think she could be expecting, do you?

Nell: Expecting what? Personally I never know what to expect.

Me: I meant expecting the patter of tiny feet.

Nell: Are you referring to Gladys, or a corgi?

Me: I’m talking about puppies. Her puppies. Well, hers and Dave’s I suppose.

Nell: What? David would never take advantage of Sally. He is an honourable boy.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Handsome has a lead

Me: My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy looks awfully tired.

Nell: Waiting can be extremely exhausting you know.

Me: Who is Dave waiting for?

Nell: You, of course. What a silly question. We don’t like it when you are away.

Me: So when were you going to tell me Henry was hiding in my scarf?

Nell: Was he?

Me: Don’t play the innocent.

Nell: We thought you would like the company. I hope you’re looking after him.

Me: Yes, he’s on the balcony. He loves the sea views, especially the sunsets.

Nell: He can’t stay out there too long. He’s a house woodlouse.

Me: I know.

Nell: Just keep him warm and safe.

Me: I will. How are things?

Nell: We have had a development.

Me: Tell me more.

Nell: Handsome has a lead and it’s all because of Cornish Yarg.

Me: That’s a cheese wrapped in nettles.

Nell: I know. May I continue?

Me: Yes.

Nell: So Gary was delivering the cheeses as usual and he got talking with Handsome who was admiring his Somerset Brie.

Me: Who is Gary?

Nell: You must know Gary the Goat. Long hair and a beard. He runs the farm shop near the Garden Centre. He is one of Poppy’s suppliers.

Me: I don’t think I know him.

Nell: Anyway it turns out that a Beefy wearing a sporran bought a piece of Cornish Yarg from Gary’s shop yesterday so Handsome is following it up.

Me: Was it Scottish?

Nell: No, it said ‘Thanks, Buddy’ so it’s clearly a local.

Me: Very interesting.

Nell: Funnily enough Gary is convinced that Cornish Yarg is named after him.

Me: Why?

Nell: He thinks it’s Gary spelt backwards.

Me: It isn’t.

Nell: I know but Gary is dyslexic. Don’t be so judgemental.

Me: I see. Sorry.


I know that face

Me: Oh dear. I know that face.

Nell: How are you enjoying your retreat?

Me: It was lovely to wake up to the sound of the sea. Time to pause and reflect.

Nell: Not something I will be doing as long as that animal is around.

Me: Are you talking about Handsome?

Nell: I certainly am.

Me: He’s arrived then?

Nell: With a flourish. I can accept the dinner jacket, or tuxedo as he calls it, although I told him the dress code was smart casual, but I don’t want guns in the house.

Me: Quite right, too.

Nell: He said he is never without one but I insisted he deposit it at the front door. This is Devon not Chicago.

Me: He’s from South Carolina.

Nell: That’s not the point. And he keeps asking for dry martinis.

Me: Shaken not stirred?

Nell: Exactly. He insisted on fresh lobster for dinner and then snapped at David for getting it all over him.

Me: It’s easily done. Lobsters are quite difficult to shell.

Nell: Yes they are. Poppy provided hammers but David was a little too vigorous with his.

Me: Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Malcolm helped. He’s an expert with shellfish.

Me: Any sign of the sporran wearing Beefy?

Nell: No. A few of them were wearing kilts and one was playing the bagpipes badly but we ignored them.

Me: Wise decision though probably quite difficult to do.

Nell: It was. Another one threw a haggis at Gladys but she hit it back with her baseball bat.

Me: Does she play then?

Nell: Oh yes, although not usually with a haggis. She scored a home run, though.

Me: Was anyone else playing?

Nell: Yes, we all joined in. You can’t play baseball alone you know.

Me: Of course not. Sorry.


Handsome is on the case

Nell: I’m afraid we had no choice.

Me: What are you talking about?

Nell: When we went down to the beach and noticed a Beefy wearing a sporran we had to call for back up.

Me: Owl Pacino?

Nell: No. Handsome.

Me: Handsome?

Nell: Yes. The Cat’s cousin Handsome from South Carolina in the United States. Do keep up.

Me: I didn’t know The Cat had a cousin.

Nell: The Cat has cousins everywhere. None of them, however, are quite like Handsome.

Me: He certainly has a determined look in his eye.

Nell: I definitely wouldn’t want to cross him.

Me: When does he arrive?

Nell: Later today. His private jet is landing in a few hours. Knitwear Wolf is collecting him on his motorbike.

Me: Is Rupert still wearing a loose cardigan?

Nell: No. He is in an Argyle sweater this morning and corduroy trousers in a rather fetching forest green with a matching beret.

Me: He sounds very dashing.

Nell: Where are you going? Your case is packed.

Me: To the Writers’ Retreat. I told you about it ages ago.

Nell: So just when everything starts happening you go on holiday?

Me: It’s not a holiday as such. I’m going there to write.

Nell: Leaving me to cope with a sporranless corgi and an international hit cat.

Me: I didn’t know that when I booked.

Nell: Not to mention Sally who is behaving very strangely at the moment.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: Charlie says she seems different.

Me: How odd.

Nell: And Knitwear Wolf isn’t sure about her either.

Me: How do you know?

Nell: He keeps muttering ‘Really?’ to himself.

Me: Really?

Nell: Exactly.

Me: Keep me posted and please look after Kev.

Nell: You know I will. Now go and write.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


World Kindness Day

Nell: How many times do I have to tell you to wear socks when you are downstairs writing?

Me: But Kev lit the fire and I’m warm.

Nell: It’s not enough. It’s a cold day.

Me: Where are the puppies?

Nell: In the kitchen Keeping an Eye on Poppy. She is baking shortbread for Hamish. He needs a little taste of home.

Me: Is he staying with us now then?

Nell: Of course he is. We can’t let him wander the cold lanes of Devon without his sporran. Let me warm your legs.

Me: You are very kind.

Nell: You know how much I value the importance of kindness. It is the first thing one should look for in someone and vastly underrated.

Me: I agree.

Nell: And today is World Kindness Day of course.

Me: Knitwear Wolf is awfully kind.

Nell: I agree. You know he spent all day looking for that sporran? To no avail I might add.

Me: I wonder what worldly goods Hamish had in there.

Nell: The usual I expect. Wallet, drivers licence, keys. Maybe an old tissue. They always seem to creep in.

Me: It might just have been a marmalade sandwich. Worldly goods mean different things to different people you know.

Nell: Honestly, I despair of you sometimes I really do. A marmalade sandwich indeed.

Me: You would be surprised.

Nell: I’ll tell you who did surprise me, though.

Me: Who?

Nell: Sally. She’s gone off bacon. Poppy made her a sandwich this morning and she refused it.

Me: But Sally loves bacon.

Nell: Not anymore. David had to eat it for her.

Me: He is such a kind Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Just put some socks on. Rupert brought us all thick angora ones so wear yours, please.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


A trying morning

Nell: Do you want the rest of that toast?

Me: Yes, thank you.

Nell: I was just Keeping an Eye. I’ve had rather a trying morning.

Me: Why?

Nell: Let’s just say, don’t be surprised if you open the door and find a k…

Me: Kangaroo?

Nell: Don’t be silly.

Me: A Komodo dragon?

Nell: What on earth would they be doing in Devon?

Me: Stranger things have happened.

Nell: Where was I?

Me: Is it a King Penguin?

Nell: Now you’re being ridiculous. Everyone knows King Penguins have excellent manners and would never arrive unannounced.

Me: So what will I find?

Nell: A kilted corgi.

Me: Is that all?

Nell: Yes. His name is Hamish and he’s lost his sporran.

Me: Isn’t he in danger of losing his kilt as well?

Nell: No. A sporran doesn’t hold up a kilt, it is like a pouch, or a pocket. Somewhere you can keep your things.

Me: I suppose it is.

Nell: Anyway, Hamish is very distressed. All his worldly goods were in that sporran.

Me: We can’t just leave him outside, Nell. All lost and sporranless.

Nell: Fortunately Knitwear Wolf arrived with the papers so he’s taken Hamish with him on his motorbike to search for it.

Me: I suspect the Beefies.

Nell: Yes, it certainly sounds likely.

Me: Is Hamish related to the Welsh corgi choir then?

Nell: Of course not. Do you think I am related to that rude Golden Labrador who shouts at cyclists near the quay?

Me: No.

Nell: Well then. Hamish is here on holiday. I’ve invited him to tea.

Me: I’m sure Poppy has some shortbread.

Nell: We will be having a selection of finger sandwiches with the crusts off, followed by scones, jam and cream. We have standards to maintain.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Sally is back

Me: Sally is very beautiful, isn’t she?

Nell: She does have something of the film star about her, I must say.

Me: She reminds me of Grace Kelly.

Nell: Grace Kelly is an Italian greyhound. She works with John the Doberman at Starbarks. Sally doesn’t look like her at all.

Me: I meant the film star. How is John by the way?

Nell: Funnily enough he is in the kitchen with Poppy right now discussing Christmas muffins. Starbarks are looking for new ideas.

Me: Do you think those two will ever get married?

Nell: Who knows. Talking of marriage I am hoping young David doesn’t do anything reckless.

Me: Why?

Nell: He is completely besotted with Sally.

Me: Yes, when she walked in to dinner and said ‘Hello, Davey,’ he leapt into the air.

Nell: His name is David not Davey and he’s a Labrador not a chihuahua.

Me: He is a Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: He ate most of the Yorkshire puddings and half of Malcolm’s dinner before she had even sat down.

Me: It was by mistake. Malcolm didn’t mind. There was plenty more.

Nell: Well, I think they make an odd couple. Sally is a sophisticated spy and David isn’t.

Me: They say opposites attract. Look at Gladys and Alejandro.

Nell: I would rather not. Who rides around the table doing somersaults on the back of an alpaca wearing a sombrero and singing ‘Guantanamera’?

Me: Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Nell: Did you notice Rupert was very quiet?

Me: Yes, he seemed rather thoughtful.

Nell: He was wearing a very loose sort of cardigan in a dull grey. Not his usual style at all.

Me: He is a bit of a lone wolf though, isn’t he? See what I did there?

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Sorry.


Sandy faced Sunday

Me: You can’t get much better than a Sandy Faced Sunday.

Nell: Does it have to be my photo every time?

Me: You have the best Sandy Face. I think it’s your eyes and your thick bear-like fur.

Nell: My thick bear-like fur? Are you sure that’s Earl Grey you are drinking?

Me: You know what I mean. The puppies have silkier finer fur but yours is thick and wavy.

Nell: Charlie likes it too.

Me: How is he?

Nell: Rather chipper now that Sally’s back.

Me: I knew it.

Nell: You are going to have to pretend you didn’t hear that. She is undercover.

Me: But I did. Does anyone else know?

Nell: You mean apart from everyone who reads this?

Me: It can’t be helped.

Nell: It can actually. Anyway, as you suspected, Jim spotted her and was told not to say anything.

Me: But what about Harriet?

Nell: She has been informed.

Me: That’s why she is in such a good mood. She has been driving Dave crazy doing those pirouettes.

Nell: You mean Turn and Twirl? A clever manoeuvre designed to distract and confuse.

Me: Talking of twirling, how did the Dog Ballet in Torquay go?

Nell: Gladys was a huge success. She danced across the beach wearing a flashing collar surrounded by dogs chasing illuminated balls.

Me: Did Dave join in?

Nell: I’m afraid ballet is not for him. The shoes are all wrong for a start.

Me: I do hope Sally lets him know she is here.

Nell: Charlie says she is going to surprise him at dinner. Poppy is cooking roast beef and everyone is coming.

Me: He will be so happy. Why is she undercover?

Nell: If I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t tell you.

Me: No. Sorry.


Driftwood Bark

Me: Look at my Big Brave Beautiful Boy. How handsome is he?

Nell: Yes, he is becoming quite the heart throb. I suppose being the lead singer in a band means you are bound to have a large fan base.

Me: Are you talking about Driftwood Bark?

Nell: How many bands does David have?

Me: I didn’t know they were that successful.

Nell: ‘I Want To Bark Free’ just went to Number One on iChews. Do keep up.

Me: Really?

Nell: They are all extremely excited.

Me: Who else is in it then?

Nell: The Cat for a start. It plays the tambourine when needed.

Me: I didn’t realise it was musical.

Nell: It isn’t. Then there is Alejandro. Hooves are a great asset to a drummer apparently.

Me: I suppose they would be.

Nell: Malcolm plays the penny whistle.

Me: Gosh. He’s coming out of his shell.

Nell: Malcolm is a flamingo. The only shells he’s coming out of are prawn shells and the odd crab, or lobster. Where was I?

Me: The Driftwood Bark line up.

Nell: Yes. Gladys plays the double bass.

Me: Isn’t that rather a large instrument for a Pomeranian?

Nell: Nothing phases Gladys. She is fearless. You know she is performing in the Dog Ballet in Torquay this evening?

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: Finally there is Mutley is on the keyboards.

Me: But he’s completely deaf.

Nell: I’m afraid that doesn’t always matter.

Me: I know what you mean.

Nell: Although, sometimes he appears to be playing a completely different tune.

Me: I know the feeling.

Nell: You just need to stay in the real world. Did David just walk past wearing a pair of ballet shoes?

Me: Yes, but don’t worry Gladys was with him.

Nell: In a tutu?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Have you seen her Ted Talk?

Me: Where are the girls?

Nell: In your bedroom with David. Poppy is consoling Harriet and Gladys is in my handbag.

Me: Why?

Nell: Because David brought it upstairs. You know he likes carrying it around and Gladys has started sleeping in it again since the weather got colder.

Me: I mean why does Harriet need consoling?

Nell: Harriet says Jim has a wandering eye.

Me: Jim the Farm Dog?

Nell: Of course.

Me: He is completely devoted to Harriet. She knows he is.

Nell: Well, apparently he woofed at a passing Golden.

Me: Retriever?

Nell: Yes.

Me: With beautiful long blonde hair?

Nell: Exactly. Like Sally.

Me: Maybe it was Sally and he was just saying hello?

Nell: But Sally is in London.

Me: But is she? Sally is a spy.

Nell: I hadn’t thought of that. Charlie will know.

Me: Surely Dave should know. He is her boyfriend.

Nell: When it comes to spying she tries to protect David as much as she can. He wears his heart on his face.

Me: You mean sleeve.

Nell: I do not. David isn’t wearing sleeves and if he was why would he do that? Ridiculous idea.

Me: Yes, it is when you say it like that. It comes from Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. If you wear your heart on your sleeve birds will peck at it.

Nell: Well, that’s not happening. The Beefies would have his heart in an instant.

Me: True.

Nell: Anyway, now Harriet thinks she needs to change.

Me: But she doesn’t. She’s perfect as she is. Apart from the cushion chewing.

Nell: That’s what Poppy says. Haven’t you seen her Ted Talk on You Chewed? She is an excellent motivational speaker.

Me: Go Poppy. Girl power.

Nell: Do stop. You are not a Spice Girl.

Me: No. Sorry.